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CENTER LINE - An honorable man passes on gavel, robe

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:56 PM

To say Jim Conway has some big shoes to fill would be a huge understatement.

Much has been said the last week about retiring Huron County Common Pleas Judge Earl McGimpsey, who is hanging up his robe after 12 years on the bench.

McGimpsey gave a stirring talk Thursday at the National Day of Prayer service at First Presbyterian Church. It opened a lot of eyes to the man who for 12 years kept a low profile.

A good judge is like a good referee if you can walk off the floor and nobody knows you were there, then you did a good job.

Flash back to the O.J. Simpson trial and Judge Lance Ito.

Ito seemed to enjoy press attention. Ito often invited celebrities into his chambers for a visit, and even once privately told Larry King, of CNN's Larry King Live, how he was going to rule on the his decision regarding the admissibility of Simpson's prior domestic violence evidence. Fortunately, King kept the disclosure to himself at the time. At the request of a friend, Ito even gave a controversial interview during the trial.

Often willing to let in as much of the facts as possible, Ito did not often exclude evidence. This was in part his reasoning to allow the controversial taped interviews of Mark Fuhrman as evidence of bias.

McGimpsey's recent claim to fame was the Gravelle's "caged kids" trial, which drew international attention.

While some objected to the sentence McGimpsey gave the Gravelles, nobody could question his work ethic and integrity.

He was a professional at everything he did.

Conway officially takes over Monday and the bar has been set high.

Life will be different for the 1981 St. Paul High School graduate. It was pointed out by Judge Ilene Singer at his swearing-in ceremony Friday he no longer is "Jim" Conway or "Mr." Conway, but "Judge" Conway. His life, as he knew it, will never be the same.

Singer, of the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo, congratulated Conway on his new job. She cautioned, however, that it will only be a matter of time before she sees one of Conway's rulings come before her court. That's the way the system works with its checks and balances. Everybody including McGimpsey is called to the carpet at one time or another for their decisions.

You just hope you don't get too many rug burns.

Conway said he is ready for his new challenge.

"Luckily, Judge McGimpsey has been very, very good to me," he said. "He has let me sit in on some cases and I feel very good."

Just about the time Conway starts to feel at home with his new job, he'll get booted out of the courthouse this summer while repairs are being made.

"It's going to be a little bit of a challenge for us to move out to the (Norwalk) high school. We are hoping to use the library wing and stay in that part of the building."

The move will be "hopefully four to five weeks. What they are going to do is put in all new heating, air conditioning and lighting in the courtroom. Another concern is they will have to shut down the hallways for work.

"Getting up to speed and the temporary move will be the focus of my attention."

Conway said Friday was a great day in his life.

"Truly, I was honored and humbled. It was wonderful to see that kind of support," he said. "It gives me a lot of confidence going into the job. I will rely on a lot of people the next couple of years and I have he confidence they will be there when I need them."

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