By CARL E. FEATHER - firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge Robert Wynn would rather meet the students of Bruce Thompson’s Practical Law course in a classroom than a courtroom.
On Friday, the Eastern County Court judge visited Thompson’s class at Jefferson Area High School to give an overview of the court system and the kinds of cases that fall within his jurisdiction, that is his realm of authority as a judge.
“The power of a judge to order people to do things is very limited,” Wynn told the students. “Before a judge has authority, a case has to be filed in a court.”
Wynn explained that he is protected by judicial immunity, that is he can’t be sued, as long as he stays within his court’s jurisdiction. For Wynn’s court, that includes misdemeanors, traffic court and monetary cases up to $15,000. The court also deals with felony cases in their early stages, but action is usually limited to setting bond, appointing counsel or determining probable cause.
“They are only in court a little while,” Wynn said of felony cases, which advance to common pleas court.
Thompson said he invited Wynn to speak to the class because the judge takes his role very seriously and holds students’ attention. It also helped that Wynn’s son, Robbie, is a student of the class.
“They are going to get the best,” Thompson said of the judge.
Wynn, who was re-elected in November, has been Eastern County Court judge for 21 years. He’s been a judge for so long, Wynn can remember when the court was located in the old courthouse building.
“I was the last judge to sit in the old courthouse,” he said.
He relocated to the new courthouse in 1997; his courtroom previously housed the juvenile court, which was moved to Ashtabula Township.
His job as judge is part-time; court is typically scheduled for just three mornings a week. The rest of the time, Wynn works in his private law practice, an arrangement that gives him the best of both worlds, he said.
Wynn’s Western County Court counterpart, Richard Stevens, retired at the end of 2012 and the governor has not appointed another judge to that bench. All of the state judges are elected, and whomever is appointed to the Western County slot will have to go on the ballot in order to retain that seat.
County court judges serve terms of six years.
The judge said he was pleased with the interest and respect shown by the Jefferson Area High School students.
“I really respect the way this class is paying attention,” he said.