Judge Beth Whitmore has heard cases on the Ninth District Court of Appeals bench for 15 years.
The appeals court has jurisdiction in Summit, Wayne, Medina, and Lorain counties, and Judge Whitmore is one of five on an all-female court - which she acknowledges is a milestone.
"Milestones can be offered to support the younger generation coming up that they can see the women, if they are good judges and they work hard, they rise. So in that aspect I think it can be inspirational," Judge Whitmore said.
As a twin growing up overseas while her father was stationed in England, it was a trip to the royal court's "The Old Bailey" that served as an inspiration to Judge Whitmore. Fascinated by the pomp and circumstance surrounding the proceedings, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Before entering law school and starting a career as a lawyer and judge, Judge Whitmore decided to enlist in the military during the Vietnam War.
"Many of my college friends were leaving this country for Canada and I thought to myself 'this is a pretty good country from what I've seen and if men are being drafted, women can contribute as well.' So I volunteered for the Air Force, and I'd like to say that was the best decision I ever made because of the things I learned in the Air Force," Judge Whitmore said.
Serving in the U.S. Air Force Security Service from 1968 to 1972, she said helped her with decision-making and organizational skills that she still uses in her job today.
Judge Whitmore was in private practice for 14 years with a law firm in Cleveland until her appointment and then election to the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. She was elected to the Ninth District Court of Appeals in November 1998 and has been re-elected twice.
"Our country was founded on people being willing to offer their services, and it's a privilege to be able to do it - to feel that people have elected you or want you to represent them in government. With that comes an obligation to make the best decision that I can even if it's a difficult one," Judge Whitmore said.
Judge Whitmore recalled one such difficult decision. She had to send an abusive husband to prison, despite the insistent pleas of the wife and son to let him come home. She never knew the outcome of that decision - until years later.
"Ten years later I'm out in public and a woman is coming toward me with this tall, handsome young man and she said, 'You won't know who we are but I wanted my son to meet you. You saved our lives.' Now, those are the experiences that more than compensate for the difficulties and the discouragement that sometimes comes with having to deal with all the bad cases," Judge Whitmore said.
Away from the courtroom, you'll find Judge Whitmore chasing a little white ball on the golf course, fishing at the family farm, or bringing new life to old furniture.
"I always wanted to be a carpenter, and I have done restorations of old furniture," she said of her hobby. "It gives me a sense of fulfillment. You can feel it; you can see it."
Her love of family, country, and the rule of law have shaped Judge Beth Whitmore's service to Ohio's judicial branch.