Honor in the court defined the tenure of Judge Milich

Judicial protocol dictates that judges in courts in most jurisdictions receive the moniker “honorable” before their name. Sometimes, however, that lofty adjective is ill-fitting – as several judges forced to resign their positions of trust in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley have proved over the years.

Never so for the Honorable Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert P. Milich. Judge Milich, who retired last week due to age limits after nearly 20 years of distinguished service on the city court bench, has worn that title exceptionally well.

It is hardly surprising then that legions of individuals and institutions – including former Mayor John McNally, Youngstown City Council, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission – have bestowed commendations of honorable service on the veteran jurist. We join them today in saluting Judge Milich’s record of noteworthy achievements and expanded public outreach from the municipal court.

Before taking his seat on the city court bench in 1998, Milich already had amassed a resume of stalwart public service in the U.S. military. In the Vietnam War era, he interrupted his law-school studies to join the U.S. Air Force as a logistics officer and military intelligence specialist. Through 1995, he was a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 910th Airlift Wing in Vienna Township and served in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. He retired proudly as a lieutenant colonel.

At the age of 55 with many productive years of public service ahead of him, he answered the call of Republican Ohio Gov. George Voinovich in 1998 to replace a sitting Youngstown Municipal Court judge who was forced to resign in disgrace after a felony conviction.

His primary drive in his early years on the court was to remove the stain of corruption and dysfunction that had become emblematic of its operation. Toward that end, he worked assiduously to improve administrative operations and enhance efficiency. His establishment of administrative protocols resulted in a vast reduction in the backlog on the court’s docket, thereby better affording defendants their constitutional right to fair and speedy justice.

He also left his mark in beefing up security in the municipal court by replacing unarmed rent-a-cops with professionally trained law enforcement officers. He also collaborated closely with his peers in aggressively advocating much needed modern and safer structural facilities. Unfortunately, Milich will not serve to see that latter dream realized later this year when the court moves into its newly refurbished and expansive home in the former City Hall Annex.

PIONEER IN VETERANS COURT

Beyond those achievements, Judge Milich perhaps leaves his most lasting and shining imprint on Youngstown Municipal Court through the specialized docket for military veterans he established seven years ago.

When it first convened, the Youngs-town Veterans Treatment Court stood as only the second in Ohio and one of the few in the nation to offer specialized services including addiction rehabilitation and mental-health treatment for military veterans charged with nonviolent misdemeanors.

Today, his specialized docket has been replicated hundreds of times over in Ohio and the nation, and his own docket has graduated and restored the lives of dozens of military veterans.

Valley boxing icon Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini assisted in creating the court. “I’ve just seen how everybody responds to him,” said Mancini, “... and they love him, and he’s helped turn their lives around, and he’s helped save their lives.”

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, a national proponent for veteran treatment courts who helped establish the Youngstown docket, concurs.

“Judge Milich’s court is a shining example of what a veterans treatment court should be,” she told the Akron Legal News. “Judge Milich’s program is so effective that I have sent other judges to Youngstown to observe how he does things.”

Clearly, newly-installed Judge Carla Baldwin will have some mighty big shoes to fill in replacing Judge Milich. She is off to a good start, partly because of the tutelage she’s received from her predecessor and the standards for judicial transition Judge Milich himself established.

And fortunately for the court, we likely haven’t seen the end of Judge Milich’s stellar judicial talent. He hopes to serve as a visiting judge when needed.

For now, however, we wish Judge Milich a richly rewarding retirement. He clearly has earned it through decades of praiseworthy, exemplary and undeniably honorable public service.

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