January 9, 2014

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›› Former public defender finds calling as judge
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Former public defender finds calling as judge

When Judge Ted Barrows ’76 was running to serve on the bench of the Franklin County Municipal Court, he wasn’t given much of a shot by the local political pundits.

His opponent was an incumbent; Barrows was not from Ohio; and he had never worked for a large or wealthy law firm.

So as the election headed into the home stretch, Barrows got on buses. He started at the very edge of a bus route and disembarked at each stop, passing out literature and meeting people along the way. Then he hopped back on the next bus and headed to the next stop to do it all over again. He knocked on doors and attended every parade or parish festival he could find.

“There’s no secrets in this business,” he said. “You work hard, hope for good breaks, and trust to luck.”

Whether it was the luck, a couple of good breaks, or some combination of the two, Barrows’ methods worked. He won the election with 52 percent of the vote.

Now four years into his second six-year term, he finds the work meaningful and rewarding.

“It’s the perfect job for me,” he said. “If I had sat down 25 years ago and said, ‘What would be the perfect job for me?’ I might not have said municipal court judge, but it is perfect.”

A self-described “social worker at heart,” the public side of the law has always been what has appealed to Barrows. He worked in private practice for a couple of years earlier in his career, but the work wasn’t for him. 

He got a job as a public defender for Franklin County and has remained in public law for most of the rest of his career, working as an assistant attorney general for the state of Ohio and a prosecutor for the Columbus City Attorney’s Office before becoming a judge.

Now Barrows views his work as an opportunity to better the community.

“Most of the folks that come to court here are not bad people,” he said. “They’re people who have done something stupid. Or they’ve got a substance abuse problem, and they’ve run afoul of the law. So I have a chance with people who have maybe psychological problems or maybe substance abuse problems to direct them to a place where they can get some help that will make their lives and the lives of the people around them better.”

Though not everyone is able to turn their lives around, sometimes Barrows gets to see the improvements firsthand.

“Once every two or three years I get a letter from somebody thanking me for sending them to jail or making them do whatever I made them do,” he said. “Every once in a while someone will come to the courthouse, and they don’t have a case that day. They’ll sit through the docket, and then, when everyone else is done, they’ll say, ‘Judge I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m six months sober from the day I was in front of you.’ ”

As a municipal court judge, Barrows is grateful he doesn’t have to deal with cases involving murder, rape, or robbery. “I think that would give me ulcers,” he said.

It allows him to leave his work at the courthouse and focus on other priorities like his family at home. Barrows is happily married to his wife, Diane Mallory ’80, and has one stepson and three grandchildren.

When not at work or with family, Barrows’ passion is scuba diving, which he picked up right before going on a trip to Hawaii. He tries to go on a trip every year and so far has been to Belize, Cozumel, Honduras, Bonaire and Curacao.

Article by Michael Periatt

SideBar is a monthly electronic newsletter for Moritz College of Law alumni. Questions regarding this publication should be directed to moritzlawnews@osu.edu.