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Good coaching, passion for football got Judge William Pollitt Jr. through school

Judge William Pollitt Jr. of the Franklin County Municipal Court

Special to the Legal News

Published: August 26, 2013

It took a lot of coaching to get Judge William Pollitt Jr. to the bench, but now that he’s there he has no intention to leave any time soon.

Growing up during an industrial boom in Dayton, Pollitt had no plans of going to college until his football coach pulled him to the side.

“My junior year I started getting letters from schools for scholarships and he realized that my grades weren’t good enough. So he sat me down and said ‘Listen, this is what you’ve got to do, if you want to go to college you’ve got to get serious about things,’” Pollitt said.

The young judge took that advice and his hard work paid off, landing him a scholarship to The Ohio State University to play football under Woody Hayes. As the team’s middle linebacker, Pollitt remembers going undefeated his junior year, playing in the 1969 Rose Bowl and winning the national championship.

While Pollitt was on the team, Hayes advised him to pursue a law degree. Again, that meant Pollitt had to raise his grades and work harder in the classroom, but he got it done. He said he applied to several law schools and found his grades weren’t at the level they wanted. Because Hayes believed in him, Pollitt said the coach made a call to the dean at Capital University Law School and he was eventually admitted.

“My grades were good in law school for the first time,” he said. “I started off fast and then kept it up because I was scared for a couple reasons: One, that was a whole different area for me, and two, Woody was counting on me because he put his word on the line.”

Treating the classes like a big game, Pollitt said he taped each lecture and then watched the tapes in his dorm until he was able to make an outline and understand the material. The method proved successful and Pollitt left Capital to pursue a career as a defense attorney, which he did for four years before becoming a law clerk for a criminal attorney and then branching out to open his own criminal law office.

Pollitt’s roommate at the time, future Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka, ran for city attorney and when he won, he placed Pollitt at the head of the criminal division of the city prosecutor’s office.

“For 18 years that’s what I did, but I was kind of a trouble shooter,” he said. “I would go to courtrooms that for some reason were a little out of control and overloaded with cases and they’d put me in there and I’d try to work them out and get the courtroom under control. That’s when I decided ‘I think I can do this job.’”

Former Gov. George Voinovich appointed Pollitt to the Franklin County Municipal Court in 1996 and the judge said it’s been a great fit.

“I have a tendency to be a little on the hyper side, so I like dealing with the people that come through here — the good, the bad, it doesn’t matter — I just enjoy the people and I like the pace of it,” Pollitt said.

Pollitt’s current term will end in 2015 and he recently decided he will run again for re-election. If elected, his next term would be his last because of Ohio’s age laws. But, when the time comes to retire, Pollitt will have his wife there to show him how it’s done.

While working in the court, Pollitt hit it off with a probation officer named Lee. About 11 years ago, the two married and continued to work in the court together until Lee retired a little more than a year ago. Life as a homemaker for the past year has taught Lee one thing: retirement isn’t something for Pollitt.

“She’s the one that says, ‘You know, retirement’s really not for you,’” he said, agreeing that he wouldn’t know what to do with all the time at home.

When he is at home, Pollitt said he enjoys spending time with Lee and their dog Maggie May. A seasoned lab owner, Pollitt said they worked hard to get their previous dog, an English lab, certified as a show dog. When she passed away, the couple got Maggie May, another lab, and he said they enjoy taking her to Antrim Park where she can get out and swim.

A father of two, Pollitt said his girls are both expecting to graduate college this December. His oldest, 23, is going to school full time at Columbus State Community College and, following in her father’s steps, is also working full time at a law firm. His youngest daughter, 22, is attending Kent State and will graduate this year in hospitality management.

When the girls are home, Pollitt said they enjoy going out for dinner, often to Tony’s Italian Ristorante in German Village, where they’re family friends with the owner. When they aren’t home, Pollitt said he’s a regular at a local bar near his home in the Henderson Road area where they know his name and he can go listen to live music.

“I really enjoy listening to good music and for years and years I’d go out two or three times a week just to listen to live bands,” he said.

Other nights, the judge enjoys being his own cook. He said his mother was “the best cook in the world” and, luckily, he got some of her genes.

“My mother had a recipe to make really hot dill pickles and peppers — really hot — and I found the recipe,” he said, boasting that last year he made more than 100 quarts and will be aiming for 200 this year.

To complete the task, Pollitt said he’ll spend three or four days canning, but that it’s certainly worth it to replicate one of his mother’s recipes. Other than spicy peppers, the judge enjoys being his household grill master. He said he does most of the cooking around the house, usually sticking to marinating and grilling steaks, but that he leaves fish up to his wife.

“Cooking fish is an art form and I’m not there,” he said.

Prior to joining the bench, Pollitt spent a lot of time serving his political party and said it must have burnt him out because now he doesn’t participate in any of the political or legal organizations around Columbus. He said he understands the importance of those who do participate, but said he prefers to “do my own thing.”

“I prefer just to do what I do, how I want to do it, when I want to do it,” he said. “There’s 15 of us (judges) here, there’s 15 different ways of doing things and some people are very involved with a lot of different activities and a lot of different organizations and that’s great. Hopefully at the end of the day we all get to the same place, where the public gets its day in court and gets a fair shake. And if we end up there, it doesn’t matter how you got there, I think you’re doing your job.”