'I've been really lucky,' Judge Lynne Callahan says of her nearly 40-year career

Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Lynne Callahan listens to arguments in the evidence suppression hearing of Brogan Rafferty, a co-defendent in the Craig's List killings, in 2012.
Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Lynne Callahan listens to arguments in the evidence suppression hearing of Brogan Rafferty, a co-defendent in the Craig's List killings, in 2012.

Several Summit County judges over the years have been former prosecutors.

Few, though, have been both prosecutors and police officers.

Lynne Callahan is the exception, first serving as an Akron police officer, then switching to being a city and county prosecutor and finally becoming a judge in three different courts.

“It’s a great background – seeing things from a lot of different perspectives,” said Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty, who has known Callahan for more than 30 years.

Judge Lynne Callahan
Judge Lynne Callahan

Callahan, whose career spans nearly 40 years, announced last week that she is retiring when her term on the 9th District Court of Appeals runs out in February. She won’t run for reelection this year, though she had taken out petitions to defend her seat.

“It was a tough decision,” Callahan said. “I’m at peace with it. I really am.”

Local Republican party leaders from Summit, Medina, Wayne and Lorain counties – the counties that make up the 9th district – will meet Friday  to decide who should replace Callahan on the November ballot.

“She was an outstanding candidate and an outstanding judge,” said Bryan Williams, the Summit County GOP chairman. “She distinguished herself in all her roles. She’s ready to retire. She’s earned it.”

Williams said he plans to recommend Barberton Judge Jill Flagg Lanzinger.

However, Lanzinger was slated to run for the 9th district against Judge Tom Teodosio. If Lanzinger is chosen to replace Callahan, party leaders also will need to select a new challenger for Teodosio’s seat.

Three of the five 9th district appeals court seats are on the ballot this year, with all of them uncontested in the primary and contested in the November election.

Summit County judges: Battle of the judges: All five local Summit County judicial races contested this year

Callahan starts out as an officer

Callahan got her law degree from the University of Akron in 1984. Instead of practicing law right away, she decided to become an Akron officer. She was an officer for five years, then served as a city prosecutor and then a county prosecutor.

Callahan was appointed as a judge in Akron Municipal Court in 1997 and served in that role until 2009, when she moved to Summit County Common Pleas Court. She was elected to the 9th district in 2017.

McCarty, who served with Callahan in the county prosecutor’s office and then in both Akron Municipal Court and Summit County Common Pleas Court, said people might not realize that Callahan has a wicked sense of humor.

Though Callahan may have joked behind the scenes, McCarty said, she was serious about her job. She said this was especially true when Callahan had death penalty cases, including that of Richard Beasley, the Akron man sentenced to death for luring young men to a secluded area with the promise of a job in Craigslist ads and then killing them.

“Those affected her deeply,” McCarty said. “That’s just the kind of person she is. She’s not divorced from all the emotion.”

Callahan agrees the trials of Beasley and Brogan Rafferty, his juvenile accomplice who was sentenced to life in prison, were among her toughest, as well as that of Daniel Tighe, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murders of his 5-year-old son and the boy’s mother.

While Callahan enjoyed the hustle and bustle in Common Pleas Court, she also has appreciated the slower pace in the 9th district. She said she has time to read, research and edit before decisions are released.

“It’s a luxury you don’t have as a trial judge,” she said.

Lynne Callahan meets husband on the job

Callahan met her husband, Mike, when they were both working at the county prosecutor’s office.

They got married in 1994.

Mike became the Summit County prosecutor, with Lynne holding the Bible at his swearing in and their 3-year-old son, Michael, by her side. Mike is now a prominent defense attorney in Akron.

Mike Callahan is sworn in as Summit County prosecutor by Lynn C. Slaby, 9th District Court of Appeals judge as Mike's wife, Lynne, holds the Bible with their son, Michael, 3, by her side.
Mike Callahan is sworn in as Summit County prosecutor by Lynn C. Slaby, 9th District Court of Appeals judge as Mike's wife, Lynne, holds the Bible with their son, Michael, 3, by her side.

The couple has three children four grandsons.

Their son Michael passed the bar last year and is now working as an attorney at an Akron law firm. Lynne said their two daughters never had an interest in the law, choosing other career paths.

Lynne Callahan wants to travel, read and volunteer

Callahan said she started to think seriously about retiring when she turned 65 in May.

“Life’s too short, you know,” she said. “It just is.”

Callahan said she isn’t ill – the first question people have asked when they hear about her decision. She said she wants to be able to do things with her grandkids that she often wasn’t able to with her kids, like going to their games and other activities.

Callahan hopes to travel and enjoy fun reading like murder mysteries, rather than legal briefs. She’d also like to do volunteer work and might want to serve as a visiting judge.

“I think I need a little time first,” she said.

Callahan said she is grateful for her long career that allowed her to wear so many different hats.

“I’ve been really lucky,” she said. “When I look back, have there been bad days? Sure. To have jobs you’ve loved all the way through, I’ve been blessed. But it’s time.”

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com, 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Lynne Callahan retiring after nearly 40- year career in Summit County