Contributing to a Healthy Judiciary: One Spouse's Agenda 2007
by Maryanna D. Klatt, Ph.D.
Member, Advisory Committee on the Judicial Family Network (2003-2009)
The Ohio State University, Assistant Professor of Clinical Allied Medicine and Visiting Assistant Professor of Education and Human Ecology
Did I feel like disrupting our family life to go on the campaign trail in 2002? No I did not, nor did our children. My private nature, compounded by the dread of being in the public eye, kicked in, and I was hesitant to say the least. Yet, I was motivated to do whatever was needed to help my husband run a successful campaign to keep his newly appointed judicial position. He was passionate about doing a good job and was energized by the opportunity to serve on the Court of Appeals. That was five years ago. In retrospect, I see a family who changed their paradigm in order to accomplish two things: to help one of its members follow his calling and to strengthen the judiciary for the public good. When my husband, Bill Klatt, won his first election to retain a seat on the Tenth District Court of Appeals, we knew as a family we had accomplished both of our goals. Hopefully, each and every family who supports a member campaigning for a judicial position will experience this same sense of private and public victory.
Five years later, all three of our “soon to be adult” children seem to understand the necessity of working toward a worthwhile goal, even if it involves features that may provoke some discomfort. They also learned a process for seeking support when in need. Looking for an avenue of support to ease the challenging parts of the campaign trail, I went to my first Judicial Family Network (JFN) meeting. I did not know at the time I would meet such caring, bright, and committed individuals to whom I could turn for support and encouragement. Nonpartisan and professional, JFN provides a space in which family members of judges can explore issues with persons in similar (and somewhat unique) circumstances. I sought out and found a supportive environment that in turn helped me support my spouse. My hope is that by seeing how I benefited from the JFN, our children will in turn seek avenues of support in their lives when needed.
My goal as the spouse of a judge is to retain my own sense of identity and worth. Ironically, this now includes knowing that I help strengthen the judiciary in Ohio by being a support for my spouse. This has become part of who I am. Yet, perhaps this is not ironic because in our relationship no individual accomplishment has been forged alone. From my professional life as an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, to Bill's continued hard work on the bench, to our support of our children in their individual endeavors, our focus has always been on keeping ourselves individually healthy so that we are available to support one another. A critical piece of the support we offer to one another is insistence on perspective and retaining balance in our lives. We focus on the importance of diet and exercise, a positive attitude and hard work, and a commitment to the common good, all as an expression of remaining true to our core values. We are first and foremost on the same page concerning core values, regardless of the various shapes and forms these values may take.
Are there challenges that continually present themselves? Most definitely. Yet, these challenges can be clarifying. Sometimes questions need to be asked as motivators to formulate answers. As our children journey through their college years and the question of how best to serve the world surfaces, it is difficult to not offer solutions that have worked for us - law school, public office, academia - yet we know that each and every life has an individual journey. The shape of the answer is “successful” only if it allows the individual to be in balance. When I married my husband, I did not realize I would be the spouse of a judge. One never knows what future trails are waiting to be forged so I have always tried to focus on creating and maintaining balance in the day-to-day and moment-to-moment opportunities. This includes being open to alternate paths when they present themselves.
Being the spouse of a judge has allowed me to expand my notion of the role I play in society. As a teacher my job is not political, but as a judicial spouse I do have a socio-political contribution to make. I want our children to be aware of the various ways and avenues, although not always obvious, through which we may contribute to society. In supporting my spouse to be a balanced, committed member of the bench, I am supporting a “Healthy Judiciary.” This is a contribution I am proud to make. It is one being made by all spouses and families of our judiciary.
Maryanna Klatt is the wife of Judge William Klatt, 10th District Court of Appeals.
For information about the Advisory Committee on the Judicial Family Network, please contact Judicial Services Program Manager Dean Hogan, Supreme Court of Ohio, 614.387.9467.