As Wauseon’s city prosecutor, Eric Nagel spent much of his time in Fulton County Western District Court. He’ll continue to do so, but now in a much different capacity.
Nagel was appointed the court’s judge April 28 by Gov. John Kasich. He replaces Judge Jeffrey Robinson, who in turn replaced Common Pleas Court Judge James Barber, who retired in December.
Nagel will preside over the bench at least through 2018, when he’ll run for reelection. The 41-year-old city native said his new position may certainly present challenges, but as a seasoned attorney and prosecutor he has transitioned into it well.
“I’ve been in this court for a number of years doing the things I’m now doing from a different position,” he said.
And while the 1993 Wauseon High School graduate didn’t initially aspire to wear judicial robes, the calling is in his blood. His father, Roger, retired as Fulton County’s prosecutor, and his mother worked for Judge Michael Bumb.
Nagel finds his judgeship the next logical step in his career.
“Given the nature of doing a lot of prosecuting…but also doing a great deal of domestic relations work…I spent a great deal of my time in court. I think you just grow to have an appreciation for the job that the judges do,” he said. “And I think it’s always good to aspire to do something more.”
After completing his studies at Bowling Green State University, Nagel entered the University of Toledo College of Law in 2001. Upon graduation he joined his father’s firm, Hallett, Hallett and Nagel, and became a partner after his father’s retirement.
In 2003, he was hired as a Fulton County assistant prosecutor, and two years later was appointed Wauseon’s prosecutor. It made for an odd situation: At one point, Nagel was his father’s assistant in the county prosecutor’s office; then he was the city prosecutor at the same time his father was the county prosecutor.
“It was kind of unusual in the State of Ohio to have that,” he said.
His judgeship was the result of a recommendation to the governor’s office by the county’s Republican Central Committee. Nagel’s was one of two applications the committee submitted for consideration.
Although he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in art therapy, and originally thought to pursue that field, “I grew up around judges and attorneys, so I did have an interest” in law, he said.
And after years as a prosecuting attorney he decided a judgeship “was sort of a better opportunity to do that than the job I was doing. I’ve been very humbled by the support that the local bar association has given me, the defense attorneys, the prosecutors, the other judges, the county employees. I’ve just had an overwhelming response of support from the whole community, and it truly is humbling beyond what I could have ever imagined.”
He called the bench “a much greater sense of responsibility,” but said his duties as a prosecutor were essentially the same.
“Everything you do has some gravity to it, (but) it is a much different perspective you have to have from this angle. When the lights turn off I go home. I coach my kids – Connor, 13, and Bailey, 11 – in baseball, and I have dinner with my wife – Kelly – and I put it behind me, because it’s not fair to them to do otherwise.”
Nagel said as a judge he’ll continue to be as fair, personable, and approachable as he strived to be in his previous positions.
“I want to have the same qualities that got me this far. Most of the attorneys and the defendants that are familiar with me in my other roles would have a decent expectation now,” he said.
Judge Robinson said Nagel is pragmatic, intelligent, and good with people. “I think he’s going to be an excellent judge,” he said.
Because Fulton County is among the few in Ohio in which the courts are divided rather than utilizing a single Municipal Court, and because Nagel is technically a part-time judge, he can, and will, maintain his partnership at the firm.
“I’ve found it kind of humorous, in that I’ve had phone after phone for the last few weeks saying, ‘Can you still be my attorney?’” he said, laughing. “Yes, I do intend to still be your attorney, if you’ll have me.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.