Thrusday, December 31, 1998

Verdict: Quite a judge

Schmaedecke ends career

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — There was a handshake from Pete the bailiff, hugs from April in jail intake and Jackie in the clerk's office. And a thank-you from another woman, whose ex-husband the judge put in jail nine years ago.

        Another deputy jailer called Judge William Schmaedecke, 62, an institution. The judge quipped: “I'd rather be an institution than be institutionalized.”

        It was the Kenton District Court judge's last day in the courthouse after 21 years on the bench. He spent much of it traveling the halls a final few times, saying goodbye.

        He will become, in his words, “part of the history of these hallowed halls” as of one minute after midnight Sunday. That's when his successor, former Prosecutor Doug Grothaus, officially takes over.

        “I've got a lot of very positive memories,” the judge said. “My health is good. The pension is great. This has been a great career here. What more can you ask for?”

        The courthouse was filled with well-wishers throughout the day, some of whom were among the more than 130,000 defendants the judge figures he met since he started hearing cases in 1977.

        One man, in jail for escape, shook the judge's hand and wished him well. In the juvenile wing of the detention center, a boy behind the glass gave a thumbs-up.

        Tom Arnold got a handshake, too. He never met the judge before, but happened to be standing in line for a new driver's license as the judge left his afternoon reception.

        The judge was known as the kind of guy who had, well, a way of saying things. Among the gifts he'll take from the courthouse when he packs up today is a book of “Schmaedisms,” compiled by one of the workers in juvenile court.

        In The Little Book of Schmaedisms:

        • “You are an eyelash and a belch from being committed for residential placement.” — explaining to a juvenile how important it was for him to get his act together.


        • “You don't kill a fly with a cannon or an elephant with a fly swatter.” — On doing enough to help, but not too much to harm.

        • “If you stroke a skunk, your hand will smell like one.” — On the importance of the company you keep.

        “When the book is written and it's all said and done, people are going to know I was on the planet,” the judge said. “If you can say that, then I think it's been a success.

        “I'm obviously very sad, but I'm very satisfied.”


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- Verdict: Quite a judge
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