For more than three decades, Judge Sheila Farmer has served on various levels of Ohio courts. The last two of those decades have been on the Fifth District Court of Appeals based out of her home town of Canton.
Judge Farmer's love of the law started with an infatuation for a certain character on television.
"I fell madly in love with Perry Mason when I was seven, or eight, or nine years old, and was just so enthralled with the courtroom atmosphere and the defending of people's rights," she said.
After college, Farmer enrolled at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where she was one of just seven women in a class of about 150. Armed with a law degree, her legal career included serving as assistant prosecutor for Cleveland, Canton, and Stark County. In 1977, she was elected to the Massillon Municipal Court.
"I enjoyed every moment of municipal court - being with people. We ran the first night court in this area. I know more excuses about why you might be caught speeding on U.S. 30 than anybody else," Judge Farmer said.
After five years at the municipal court, Farmer moved to the Stark County Common Pleas Court bench for ten and then to the Fifth District Court of Appeals in 1993. She is one of six judges in a district that covers 15 counties.
"It is interesting to pass and review cases that other judges have been involved in. I have a soft spot for them because I've been there, so I know how hard it is to fly by the seat of your skirt, as I would say as opposed to pants, in the trial court."
Farmer enjoys the collegiality of the court and stated: "It's so very easy to work in the fifth district, regardless of political philosophies. We are all friends. We all get along. We drive to court together because you know we're the 'Have Gavel Will Travel Court.' We go out in every county."
For her many professional accomplishments, family is important to Judge Farmer. Just last year, she had the honor of swearing in her oldest daughter Kristin to the Stark County Common Pleas Court.
"For her father and me, it's just the greatest thing," Judge Farmer said her daughter's accomplishment. "My husband is a chemist, and the youngest is a chemical engineer, so we each got our own mentees in life."
As a mentor to her daughter, Judge Farmer's advice is also her judicial philosophy: "To be respectful of all people who come before you. They all have their problems, they all have to get through them, and you have to get through it with them."
It's a philosophy that has served Judge Sheila Farmer well for her nearly 40 years of service to Ohio courts.