Judge John L. Ross, the jurist who presided over the Bellefontaine Municipal Court for 26 years before his retirement in 2011, died unexpectedly the morning of Dec. 9. Judge Ross was 68.
Judge Ross first sat on the Bellefontaine Municipal Court bench in 1985, when he was appointed to the position. He won election to the seat in his own right in 1987 and remained there until his retirement 24 years later. In his two-plus-decades on the bench, Judge Ross saw the situation evolve from a part-time position into a full-time job, one that at his retirement was handling 14,000 civil, criminal and traffic cases per year, making it one of the busiest municipal courts in this state.
Ross was legendary for his objectivity and very low tolerance of nonsense while his court was in session. Over the years, if a defendant or attorney cracked a smile at an inappropriate time in court, Judge Ross would ask from the bench if the offender found the proceedings humorous. Judge Ross was also quick to cut off litigants, defendants, and attorneys for being too long-winded, but didn’t choose favorites. No transgressor was immune from a pointed comment from the bench. The adjectives most often used to describe Judge Ross were “fair” and “tough.”
The BMRT Squad was called to Judge Ross’ residence about 7:20 a.m. Dec. 9 and transported him to Mary Rutan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
Judge Ross is survived by his wife and three adult children.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.