Our 2016 Judicial Pioneer: Retired Judge Ted Schneiderman
by Janet Griffing-LaBonne
Marketing Director, Akron Bar Association
Retired Judge Ted Schneiderman misses the courtroom. That becomes quickly evident when he talks almost wistfully about his multi-faceted career on the bench.
“I retired in 2003, because you can’t start a new term as judge after age 70,” said Judge Schneiderman. “I served as a visiting judge for seven years, but now I’m fully retired… much to my chagrin.”
The life-long Summit County resident graduated from Coventry High School and Kent State University where he majored in accounting.
“I was not a particularly interested student, but when I got to law school (at Ohio State University) I started working hard.”
Judge Schneiderman attributes his interest in the law not only to his older brother, Stan, (who would pass along his used textbooks to his younger brother), but also his high school civics teacher, May Packan who the judge describes as “a frustrated, would-be lawyer.”
Their father, who owned a dry cleaning business, bribed Stan and Judge Schneiderman to come back home after law school. They hung up their shingles and went to work building a practice.
Four years as an assistant city prosecutor, plus time as Special Counsel to the Ohio Attorney General, and the cities of Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, was followed by an appointment to the Akron Municipal Court.
“I then ran for the seat, with the help of friends and my wife. You know, once you start in this politics business, you can’t let it go. You do more and more.”
“More and more” became a successful bid for Summit County Court of Common Pleas, where Judge Schneiderman served from 1991 until being age-limited out in 2003. It is for his tenure as the first first elected Jewish judge – General Division Summit County Court of Common Pleas that the judge was recognized as the Akron Bar Association’s 2016 Judicial Pioneer.
Judge Schneiderman shared a humorous story from his time on the municipal court bench:
“There was a lawyer who was very nervous because he was having trouble getting his client to plead. The guy acted like he wanted to say something and when he could finally be persuaded to talk, he said, ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.”
Judge Schneiderman was known in the courts as someone who moved his docket along quickly. There’s real time and then there was Schneiderman time: at least 15 minutes early.
“I had one golden rule in my court: Be on time and be prepared. If you were on time, you were late; if you were 15 minutes early, you were on time.”
There are other rules that Judge Schneiderman believes in and holds close. On the ring finger of his left hand is a gold ring on which is engraved with the 10 Commandments.
“I wear that ring every day. I believe that the 10 Commandments remain the basis of law today. I believe in treating people as just people, whether attorneys or defendants. It didn’t mean I would let someone off with a light sentence, but I still treated them as persons. It’s interesting, too, how I always thought of judges as being on a pedestal, but when I became one, I realized that judges are just people, too.”
Judge Schneiderman lived out his beliefs through active involvement in B’nai B’rith, the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, and committed to the security and continuity of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and combating antisemitism and bigotry. At one point, Judge Schneiderman served as International Vice President, but resigned because he was also running for judge that same year.
He has also been active in the Jewish Community Center of Akron and is very proud of his involvement as a board member for Furnace Street Mission and Oriana House, where he calls the alcohol treatment and DUI programs his proudest achievements.
“The courts have been getting so involved in what is basically social work. What I really wanted to see when I sent these guys off to treatment programs is what would happen to them. Sometimes I’d see them on the streets, and they would thank me for being tough on them.”
Judge Schneiderman is also known in the community for the annual Constitution Day celebration, which he originally created in 1987 for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. The celebration continues to be marked by the swearing-in ceremony for new citizens each September.
In the past, the judge has also written vignettes of US Presidents and Revolutionary War heroes that were printed in the Examiner magazine. The presidential vignettes, from Washington through President Bill Clinton, were compiled into a book, copies of which are still available from the Akron Bar Association.
Judge Schneiderman and his wife, Rolinda, are the parents of four daughters and grandparents of six grandchildren.
“We raised all four kids to be bossy,” says the judge. “We wanted them to be independent. All four went to Ohio State. One is a CPA, one is an attorney, turned librarian, who is with the law library at the University of Hawaii, and another is the director of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights libraries.”
When they are able, the Schneidermans enjoy traveling to Sarasota, Florida, which the judge describes as having lots of culture and lots of interesting people who have a background with the Ringling Brothers circus.
In reflecting on his career, Judge Schneiderman says, “I enjoyed my experiences in both courts, being with other lawyers and other judges. I liked the work, and I worked hard at it. I think it was a good fit and a good career.”