Eric Nagel received the phone call he had been waiting for on April 19th. After interviewing with Ohio Governor John Kasich’s office in Columbus nearly eight weeks earlier, Nagel was informed that he was the choice to be the new Western District Court judge beginning April 28th, with the swearing in on that date in the Court of Common Pleas by Judge Jeffrey Robinson. He’ll finish the term of Judge Robinson, who became the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas judge on Jan. 1st, 2017 after the retirement of Judge James Barber. He will need to run in November 2018 to retain the seat for the full term commencing January 1st, 2019.
Nagel is a 1993 graduate of Wauseon High School and a 1997 graduate of Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science in Art Therapy degree. He then attended the University of Toledo to obtain his law degree. Upon graduating from UT he started practicing law with the firm Hallet, Hallet and Nagel in 2001. He has served as the Fulton County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney since 2003 and has been the City of Wauseon Prosecuting Attorney beginning in 2005. Nagel is a member of the Fulton County Bar Association and Wauseon Chamber of Commerce.
Obviously with being an art major, a career in law was not part of his original plan. After some encouragement from friends and family and coming to the realization himself, he took the entrance exam for the UT law school and received a full scholarship. “I always had an underlying interest in law”, said Nagel. “With my dad being a prosecuting attorney himself and my mom working for Judge Bumb I was always around judges and law enforcement, by the time I’m done I’ll probably have the most time in the courthouse anybody has ever had because I’ve been around there since I was a little kid”, joked Nagel.
After his years in the Prosecutor’s office and with the opening created when then Western District Judge Jeffrey Robinson was appointed to replace Judge James Barber after he retired from the Court of Common Pleas, he decided this was the next logical step. “I just felt this was where I was needed, and after watching Judge Robinson make the smooth transition from City of Wauseon Prosecuting Attorney and his own practice into the role of being a judge I just felt I could do that as well.” So, he then expressed his interest to the Fulton County Bar Association and they sent his name, along with other candidates they felt were qualified, to the central committee in Columbus. From there, the candidates were interviewed by the committee, with the committee selecting two finalists to then be interviewed by Governor John Kasich’s office. After the interviews were completed in February, the waiting process began.
After the initial excitement of receiving the news, his attention then turned to getting started. “I am anxious to get going, I feel I am ready for the job with my years of experience in the courtroom but at the same time this will be a new view of things for me. I’ve already spent time shadowing Judge Robinson and talking to the staff and getting a feel for how things run over there. I have a good idea from my extensive time in his courtroom but you never really know until you get on that side of the bench. I will definitely look to Judge McQuade in the Eastern District Court for advice as well as Judge Robinson, Judge Barber, and Judge Bumb. But overall this has been a humbling experience and I’m ready to get started.” Nagel doesn’t see the need for big changes on how things are run in the Western District Court stating he wants to get started first and get the feedback from the staff and any suggestions from them on areas that could be altered a bit to make things better but in general Judge Robinson has done a great job over there and has been a great mentor to him over the years.
When asked about the differences between being a judge and a lawyer there was one that jumped to mind. “Being a lawyer you tend to be more of an advocate for who your representing while has a judge you remain more neutral. But there are also similar traits as well, as a prosecuting attorney you look at a case that’s put in front of you and first thing you do is try and decide is there evidence here that says this person is guilty, the same way a judge decides on cases brought before them in relation to, is there sufficient evidence that points to someone being guilty. At the end of the day, multiple roles are involved with both jobs.” One thing Nagel is looking forward to is his schedule slowing down a bit, “With the private practice, being City Prosecutor, and County Assistant Prosecutor where I handled the child support cases, my case load was very demanding so a little slow down in my schedule will be welcomed.” Something he will miss will be the day to day interaction with law enforcement, “I’ve had great relationships with city police departments and the sheriff office so not working with them on a daily basis as well as my attorney colleagues will be something I’ll miss. We have a very close knit bar association which is something you don’t see everywhere and I think is a very nice thing about our area.”
In general, he sees some misconceptions about judges saying “I’ve heard on many occasions in my time as a prosecutor, people not wanting to go before a certain judge or be represented by a certain lawyer because they think they hate them or have something personal against them. Judges don’t hold grudges, to be honest we don’t have time for that. We just look at the facts put in front of us.” In the end, Nagel wants people to feel they have been treated fairly, “We have an opportunity to do a lot of good”, he said. “I feel we are an avenue for people to find a way out. We’re a misdemeanor court so the people that come before us are not necessarily bad people. In some cases, people just made a mistake and will never be in our court again. Being in a small community helps people behave because they feel like everybody is watching. I just want to have a people first approach in my courtroom.”