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You Want to Do What?

by William G. Jennings, Esq., Toledo, OH
Vice-Chair, Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on the Judicial Family Network (2009-2010)

It was a dark and stormy night... No, it was just a cold day in January when my law partner, and coincidently, my wife, came into my office and said, “There is an open seat on the common pleas court, and I am running!”

And, so it began. Our lives changed when she took out petitions for the seat. There were countless dinners, festivals, door-knocking hours, and campaign literature drops. There was also endless fundraising, of which I was in charge, and never enough money. Added to the calendar were numerous meetings with her campaign advisor. We were also busy installing campaign signs, erecting mini-billboards, and recruiting volunteers for parades.

All of this was “a walk in the park” compared to election day. On this day in our county, candidates select polling locations and hope to change a voter’s mind through a handshake or a political sign held prominently in someone’s line of sight. It is a day of helplessness. It is “the big casino!" We tried to keep busy instead of allowing ourselves to think about all the campaign-related things we were not able to accomplish in the preceding eight months. There had never been enough time in the day to campaign the way we wanted.  

For us, election day was not without its lighter moments despite the pouring rain. We were constantly calling each other to see how busy a certain polling place was. If it was not busy, one of us would move to another location with multiple precincts. We met for lunch to get out of the cold rain and then went back to the polls. My favorite part of the day was having our opponent assign volunteers to stand next to me wherever I went. It became a quest of mine to move to new polling locations and track the time until the opposition’s volunteers arrived.

After the polls closed proved to be the most stressful part of the day. The Board of Elections had problems getting the returns counted so, even though my wife remained in the lead from the beginning, the reports from the media were agonizingly slow. It was not until 4 a.m., when all the returns were in, that we went to bed. Wednesday held a potpourri of feelings and emotions: tiredness, joy, tiredness, disbelief, tiredness, elation, tiredness, and “We won!”

The transition after the election was, I believe, a little harder for me than for my wife. When I went to work, I did not have my partner to talk with. Her office was empty. Do not misunderstand. I could not be happier for her than I was then and am now. However, after 15 years of working together and really liking one another, it was a difficult change.   

There were also adjustments to being a judicial family. We did such a good job campaigning and advertising that it was difficult to go anywhere without being recognized by at least one person. This was what the campaign was all about, getting the voters to know and support her. However, this means there are people who know us, and we do not recognize them. This has changed our demeanor in public. We never know if there is a criminal defendant’s family or someone who is unhappy about a civil suit watching us. Likewise, there could be friends of a future campaign opponent who would like to find a flaw to use in the next campaign. When dining out, we rarely drink alcohol. Today, with camera phones, our expectation of privacy is nonexistent. We now pay our longtime law school friend for college football tickets which, in years past, he gave to us as a gift. Our house has more exterior lighting at night, and license plate numbers are noted if vehicles park too long on our street. Our grandchildren are watched much more closely than they were which, short of putting a leash on them, is “close.”

These are not drastic changes in our lifestyle, but we have a more heightened awareness of our surroundings.  Chances are that nothing will ever happen, but we strive to be proactive rather than reactive. 

All in all, being married to a judge has been great. The respect judges receive from the public is something to be appreciated. It shows that people recognize the role the legal community plays in society.

The Supreme Court of Ohio’s Judicial Family Network has contributed greatly during our transition to life in the public arena. JFN provides contact with spouses and partners of judges who are experiencing similar situations, and it is a wonderful resource for any question or problem I have. I believe I am more involved in my wife’s career because of my association with the Judicial Family Network.

I am proud to be the spouse of a judge!

William Jennings is the husband of Judge Linda J. Jennings, Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

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.

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