Following the law: McDermott leaves as magistrate after nearly 29 years


Tom McDermott was a fixture at Bowling Green Municipal Court for nearly three decades.

In the last 50 years, Bowling Green has only had three judges, starting with Richard Dunipace. McDermott has worked for two of them.

His last day as court magistrate was Feb. 16.

He said couldn’t find use for his degree in pop culture after graduating from Bowling Green State University during the Reagan recession.

“It seemed like something to do,” he said about the career change to law.

Judge James Bachman hired him as magistrate in April 1995. Bachman had announced he was retiring and later that year, Judge Mark Reddin was elected to the bench.

McDermott had come to Bowling Green to attend grad school at BGSU. He is a transplant New Yorker, having grown up in Long Island.

He married Ann Rooney from Findlay in 1981 and never left Ohio.

Instead of using his pop culture degree, he went to work at Friendly’s. He became a manager but left after eight years since he wasn’t getting promoted out of management into multi-unit supervision as promised.

Ann died 10 years ago.

The couple have three children who all live in Bowling Green.

McDermott graduated from the University of Toledo’s law school at age 38.

In his third year of law school, he was assigned to the Bowling Green prosecutor’s office, working for Prosecutor Marty Smith. He worked as an assistant prosecutor in the office for 1.5 years before being hired by Judge Bachman at age 40.

“Magistrates do whatever judges allow them to do under the law. Magistrates can’t do things that only a judge can do, but a judge can assign a magistrate to do judgy things,” he said.

Magistrates can oversee traffic court and small claims court, but the judge must counter sign all of the judgements.

“Everything I do, he’s got to sign,” McDermott said. “He’ll review it and sign in.”

In the nearly 29 years he’s been magistrate, there were maybe 10 times when the judge didn’t agree with his decision, he said.

As he gets older, he’s found that his pop culture references don’t work.

“For 28 years, I’ve been talking to 19-year-olds, and I used to think that ‘Animal House’ had life lessons,” he said.

While he would never quote Dean Wormer and say “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son,” they wouldn’t know what he was talking about if he did.

He is a big proponent for the public defender’s office and student legal services on campus.

“Too many students either don’t know or don’t care” about their legal options, he said.

There is a group of people has calls “Day Oners” that he has seen since his first day on the job.

“That’s small towns,” he said.

He said the biggest difference from when he started is the focus on how addictions and mental health affect individuals and is a gateway to being involved in the legal system.

“We are so much more attuned to getting people help,” he said.

His office wall had a spot where an Osama Bin Laden poster from before 9/11 hung. He also shared a framed photo of his grandma in an advertisement for Seagram’s.

His grandma worked in an original Mad Men-type office in the 1960s, he said, and the photo was a pitch to Seagram’s for an ad.

“Nana’s been looking over me all of this time,” he said.

He was on “Jeopardy!” 21 years ago and won one match but lost the second on a trick question about modern knights.

He e made his music debut as a child singing with The Pickwick Children’s Chorus.

“I don’t know if it ever sold. We all got a copy and we all got $100,” he said.

Incidentally, the album is available on Amazon for $43.

He said he’s baseball crazy and his team is the New York Mets and used to sit in seats owned by his grandma’s employers.

“I grew up watching baseball (close enough) to smell the grass,” he said.

He kept the score sheets from Father’s Day, 1964, the first day Shea Stadium opened and when Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Mets.

He visited the Baseball Hall of Fame and saw cases of Bunning’s glove and hat from his perfect game, and the record set by Tom Seaver with the Mets when he struck out 10 batters in a row.

“I was at both of those games,” McDermott said.

What wasn’t in the cases were the score cards. He thought about donating his cards, but never did.

McDermott has put feeler out to the 10 municipal courts in adjacent counties to step in as an acting judge.

“It has a little more authority than a magistrate,” he said.

“I just put myself out for that. Judge Reddin has said he’ll use me occasionally. The judge in Maumee also has said he’ll use me occasionally as well,” he said.

He said he doesn’t want to do any lawyering but will try this for a year to see if he likes it.

Lara Rump, who used to be an assistant prosecuting attorney for Wood County, in the new municipal court magistrate.

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