It was an American president who inspired Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Rocco to serve the public. John F. Kennedy spoke at his college during a presidential campaign stop, and it was his words that led Judge Rocco on his path to sit on the bench.
"He came to Ohio University in 1959, and spoke from the steps of the student union, and I happened to be there, and I listened. And, he gave an early version of his 'ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country' speech. It was the early version of it, but it was powerful," Judge Rocco said.
Even before he heard President Kennedy's speech, Judge Rocco said he always had a desire to serve. He was in the Army Reserves for eight years, and said he saw public service as his mission.
"I saw it as a calling, and quite frankly I still see it as a calling," Judge Rocco said.
After graduating from Case Western Reserve School of Law in 1965, Judge Rocco put his service to use as the assistant law director in Parma. He then served on the Ohio General Assembly before he was elected to the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court.
"My first love was the juvenile court, and it still is. And I describe it this way, it's like your first girlfriend, it leaves a mark on your heart," Judge Rocco said.
Judge Rocco has sat on the bench for 30 years, the last 17 on the Eighth District Court of Appeals where he has heard and decided a multitude of cases including a decision on Megan's Law, the sex offender registration and notification law. Through his many years as a juvenile division judge, and with his work on the appeals court, he said one thing made his job more meaningful.
"I've had the wonderful opportunity of trying to intersect justice and the law, which is not easy, justice is allusive," Judge Rocco said. "I think it is beyond the mere, beyond the grasp of us mere mortals, but it's definitely a laudable goal, and every now and then you get to intersect the two, law and justice, and that makes it worthwhile."
Judge Rocco said that being a judge can be hard, but he is grateful for the opportunity to do what he loves.
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Judge Kenneth A. Rocco was elected to the Eighth District Court of Appeals in 1996. He received his A.B. from Ohio University in 1962, and his J.D. from Case Western Reserve School of Law in 1965. Before serving on the Eighth District Court of Appeals, Judge Rocco sat on the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court for 13 years. Before his judgeships, Judge Rocco served on the Ohio General Assembly, a practicing attorney, and a prosecutor in the city of Parma. He started his public service career in the U.S. Army in both active duty and in the reserves.
Judge Rocco has been married for 50 years to Rebecca C. Rocco, a retired educator. He also has two daughters, Elizabeth G. Rocco, a physician and former Peace Corp volunteer, and Kathleen M. Rocco, an environmental biologist, and two grandchildren.