Stepping aside – Judge Henderson not seeking re-election

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge David Henderson will not seek re-election next year and plans to retire from his judicial seat on Dec. 31, 2014.

Henderson said Monday he made the decision not to seek re-election for a third term as judge during the past year and wanted to make the legal community aware of his plans.

“I will be 67 years old when I retire next year. I am in good health and will be eligible for retirement under the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. I will have several options for my future and I will have more time to visit with my granddaughter who is now 18 months old,” Henderson said Monday.

Henderson was elected as a common pleas court judge in 2002.

“If I would seek a third term and win I would be 73 years old when I completed that term. Under Ohio law I would be ineligible to seek re-election at that point. I have enjoyed being a judge. I feel I have done a good job during my time on the bench and I have earned respect as a judge. And now I feel it is time to move on,” Henderson explained.

Henderson’s bailiff Rae Clark will retire when Henderson steps down from the court, but Teresa Laman is hoping to continue working in the common pleas court.

Henderson has been involved in the law for the past 40 years, but he has taken a long route to his judicial career.

“I was raised on a 100-acre farm in Carrollton. My parents sold the farm and we moved to Florida when I was in the eighth grade. After attending four different high schools, I graduated with a degree in industrial and systems engineering from Georgia Tech,” recounted Henderson.

“I graduated from law school at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., in 1973 and initially practiced law on my own. I moved back to Jefferson County and joined the law firm of Chalfant, Chalfant and Morrow for several years and then shared office space with Jim Abrams and Costa Mastros before I became an assistant law director for Steubenville for 15 years. I also worked as a part-time prosecutor for former Jefferson County Prosecutors Stephen Stern and Bryan Felmet. And I worked part time as a clerk for the 7th District Court of Appeals,” Henderson said.

Henderson first sought public office when he ran against Daniel Spahn for the Municipal Court judge’s seat. Spahn won that election, and Henderson turned his attention to the common pleas court seat that came open with the retirement of former Judge John J. Mascio.

“I can’t say I knocked on every door in Jefferson County but I came close. We visited the cities, every village and township in the county and I talked to a number of people in that election,” Henderson recalled.

“A lot of people think a judge has more time to himself but that certainly hasn’t been the case. It is different than a practicing attorney. A judge does have a little more control over their schedule. But a judge is busy. I have often brought cases home to do research after office hours,” said Henderson.

“If you take this job seriously the cases will take a toll on you over time. In addition to the criminal cases a judge will hear divorce cases where the custody of children and payment from one party to another must be decided. You also have personal injury, malpractice and workers’ compensation cases,” explained Henderson.

“It was the right time to run for the position and I believe this is the right time for me to step aside after next year. I wanted to make this public announcement so anyone interested in seeking the judicial seat can take out election petitions at the board of elections and file their petitions by the Feb. 5 deadline for the May 6 primary election,” Henderson declared.

Independent candidates seeking the seat have until May 5 to file a petition, according to election board officials.

In addition to spending more time with his granddaughter, Henderson said he is considering making himself available for visiting judicial assignments.

“I will also be interested in doing some teaching after I retire,” Henderson added.

At this point Henderson is trying to schedule cases to be heard during his final year in office.

“I am definitely trying to avoid scheduling something for January 2015. I don’t know who will succeed me on the bench. But I don’t want a new judge coming into office on Jan. 1, 2015, and immediately face a trial. They will be busy getting used to the position and preparing for their next six years as a judge,” Henderson said.

“I won’t know if I will miss being a common pleas judge until after I leave the bench. I will miss the people, although I will still be here and will see many of the people,” stated Henderson.