Cover Story: All Rise

Judge Allen makes her story history

May 9, 2002 at 2:06 pm
Lisa Bialac

Judge Nadine Allen envisions one standard of justice.

In 1987, Judge Nadine Allen became the first black woman to hold a countywide judicial office when she was elected to the Hamilton County Municipal Court.

During her tenure on the bench, Allen has maintained a court that doles out fair treatment to all appearing before her, regardless of economic status. In doing so, Allen says she's tried to use her position to recommend changes when and where they're needed.

Is this power? Allen says there's at least the perception of power.

"It is the inherent ability to change procedures and policies and to make a decision to be carried out by others," she says, defining the concept.

Although judges are merely public servants, Allen utilizes her judicial juice to influence procedure. There is, however, a balance. As she points out, judges can make decisions but all the parties involved must work together to make sure they're carried out. It creates a judicial stew.

For example, Allen believes successful mediation blends perception with reality to create a solution.

Because of her approach, she's helped with reform of the expunging process policy, a goal of the Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN) commission. By creating easier policies, Allen says the policy can better serve the public as well as save time and money.

Allen is also working on a recommendation to purge old warrants from the court system — there are currently 110,000 misdemeanors more than 10 years old. If approved, it would be only the third time in the county's history.

Another one of Allen's pet projects is the License Intervention Program (LIP), a program that works to remove minor charges from driving records and allow drivers to receive a valid driver's license. The judge says such programs are beneficial to people on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

Allen is proud to be among the 14 judges on the municipal court. Her post could be a likely position from which to rule, if the world were hers to order.

"If I ruled the world, it would be Utopia," she says. "There would be one standard of justice with no discrimination in arrests or laws passed, no racial profiling, no different treatment of the poor."

To Allen, justice is blind. Since the system seems to be catching up, perhaps she should remain seated.