One year ago, Judge Michelle Miller made history when she became the first female judge ever in Jefferson County. Now, she is reflecting on the year. She describes her rise to common pleas judge as unconventional. First, she went to nursing school at Ohio Valley Hospital, worked, then, went back to get her bachelors, and then, went to law school part time.
“In this country, you can do and become really whatever you want to be, and that really is the truth of the matter. I’m happy to be in this position. I certainly am thrilled to help the younger generation aspire to younger goals,” Judge Miller said.
She’s part of a group of several strong females in high level positions in the county, including Prosecutor Jane Hanlin, who is also the first woman in her position.
“It makes me feel honored and privileged,” she adds. “It also puts a little pressure on, because I know those little girls are out there looking, and we frankly, need to do our best, and work harder and stronger and smarter and faster, and provide a great role model for those little girls. Certainly solidifying the notion that you can do anything, anything you put your mind to.”
Judge Miller says her transition from private practice to the bench has been smooth, which has been a high point of the past year. Other judges throughout the county, including Judge Bruzzese, who is just one floor down from her, as well as her office and courthouse staffs have helped with that. Of course, as with any high-power position, there have been some low points as well.
“Sometimes it’s really disheartening to see the young people who have committed felonies, serious felonies, and I know the impact that that’s going to have on their lives, but nonetheless, people need to be accountable for their bad decision,” says Miller.
Despite the lows, Miller wants people to be proud to live in Jefferson County and what it has to offer: several large parks, airstrip, vicinity to several major cities, and it’s overall safety.
She says, “The crime rate in Ohio is lower than the national average, and the crime rate in Jefferson County is lower than the state average, so in terms of this county, it really is a wonderful place to live.”
Look to the future, Judge Miller hopes to do some “fine tuning” of the drug court program she established. Right now, it is in the certification process, and there have already around three to four participants.