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Robert H. Gorman Traces Path to Judicial Appointment

Judge Robert H. Gorman ’60 has lived in Cincinnati his whole life, leaving only to attend Brown University for his undergraduate studies and the US Air Force. A classics major at Brown, he had the opportunity to accept a fellowship for an archeological dig following graduation. “I wanted to get a legal education before I was drafted,” he said, “so I turned it down to complete law school before entering the military. It really is one of the great disappointments of my life.”

Judge Gorman chose to follow several other family members on their paths to law school. His father, Robert N. Gorman, had served on the Ohio Supreme Court and had had a successful law practice after serving in World War II. His brother had also gone to law school. “I chose Cincinnati because it was a fine law school,” he said, “and because I had my own tutor in my house in the form of my father!” He graduated law school in 1960, and immediately afterward was inducted into the United States Air Force, where he served as a judge advocate general for three years.

From Legal Aid to the Legislature

Judge Gorman returned to Cincinnati in 1964 and was focused on entering private practice. Before beginning at his firm, however, he spent nine months with Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati, gaining experience practicing law. At Legal Aid, he worked in the division. He also worked in juvenile court, with a few cases in municipal court as well.

It was in 1964 that Judge Gorman was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives for the 1964-66 term. His road to the legislature was an unusual one: “While I was in the Air Force, there was a fight happening between two factions of the Democratic Party in Cincinnati. I was asked to run—I had to get a waiver from the Department of Defense to be on the ballot—and was eventually endorsed by both factions in the primary. I won the primary election while I was still in the Air Force; I returned after 30 days to campaign and was ultimately elected to the House of Representatives.” Judge Gorman said that he enjoyed his experiences in the legislature, despite the fact that the trip from Cincinnati to Columbus was very long. (This was before Interstate 71 was completed.) “The legislature back then wasn’t as intense as it is today,” he said, “and there’s not as much business throughout the year.” He served as a member of the judiciary committee.

After his experience with Legal Aid, Judge Gorman’s years in private practice consisted of a large variety of practice areas. “It was a general practice,” he explained. “The practice of law in the 1960s was very different; most firms were small, and even ‘big’ firms had about 30 lawyers. Most firms had 5-12 people, and there were many more solo practitioners. In my practice, I dealt with income tax, real estate, title examination, litigation in traffic court and some felony cases, personal injury work, and products liability.” He remained in private practice for about 10 years.

In December 1972, Judge Gorman joined the bench, remaining a judge until his retirement. Initially, he served on the Hamilton County Municipal Court for four years and later served on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas for over 12 years. He spent his last 18 years as a judge on the Hamilton County Court of Appeals: First Appellate District of Ohio. “I really enjoyed being a judge,” he said. “It was a great experience. I was fortunate to have enjoyed each court while I was there and to also have enjoyed the next level each time I moved to another court. I particularly enjoyed the Court of Appeals because it involved a mixture of the practicality of law with legal scholarship. Where a judge at the trial court has to make quick decisions, on the appeals court you have the luxury of being able to research and interpret the law to apply precedent or even make new law.”

The Judge Looks Ahead

Judge Gorman retired in 2006 because of the mandatory retirement law for judges in Ohio: judges cannot run for re-election after their 70th birthdays. He currently serves as a visiting judge—a retired judge assigned by the local courts to try cases, mostly in the Common Pleas or Municipal Court, as needed. “A visiting judge might be needed because there’s a conflict resulting in a judge being unable to serve, or because there’s an overload with the court. Visiting judges are especially useful for civil cases that may go on for two to three weeks, because judges cannot devote that amount of time to a single case due to their criminal calendars.”

Outside of the courtroom, Judge Gorman also assists with several arbitrations. “I keep busy,” he said. “This year I not only had a lengthy arbitration but I also was assigned to a case in the Court of Appeals that was very lengthy—it involved 30 volumes of transcripts.” Judge Gorman also taught as an adjunct at the College of Law for nine years, teaching appellate practice and procedure.