At two different times during my “career,” I worked for the late Hon. J. Warren Bettis. (I put “career” in quotes because I had not entered the legal profession when I worked for Judge Bettis.)
Before I went to law school, for two summers in 1991 and 1992 when I was a “rising” sophomore and a “rising” junior in college, I worked for Ohio’s Disclipinary Counsel as a clerk. Judge Bettis was the Disciplinary Counsel at the time. I performed various tasks around the office, helped investigate disciplinary matters, and got to learn a lot about the legal profession. I was grateful for Judge Bettis’ faith in me — and for his willingness to let me perform various tasks for him, such as taking a notarized statement from a witness, or even serving subpoenas on elected officials. Initially, his willingness may have been because he knew my mother, father and grandfather; but, in time, I’d like to think that he trusted my judgment. I always appreciated him for how he actively sought out my advice on matters.
More than anything, Judge Bettis wanted to do what was right. Others may have disagreed with his reasoning, but he strived to do the right thing and worried about the outcome. He wrestled with making sure that investigations were carried out fairly, and he entrusted the assistant disciplinary counsel working under him to prosecute attorneys and judges fairly.
After my first year of law school, in 1995, I was privileged again to work “for” Judge Bettis. I worked as a law clerk in the Ohio Court of Claims for a summer (and continued working one day a week during my second year of law school). Technically, I served the Court, but practically, I worked for the assigned judges to the Court at that time, including the late Judge Dean Strausbaugh, the late Judge Russ Leach, Judge Fred Shoemaker, and Judge Bettis.
Because of my work for him at the Disciplinary Counsel, Judge Bettis trusted me to assist him with researching and preparing drafts of opinions. Again, he was generous in asking me for my advice on cases and matters, and I appreciated his interest in “getting things right.” I loved listening to his “war stories” — though those stories were not about his heroic service at Iwo Jima but rather about his time on the bench and at the Disciplinary Counsel — or on the tennis court. I also loved hearing about his vacations in his RV, touring around the country with his wife, Barbara.
Still only less than 15 years out of law school, I think back at those “mentors” in the profession, who helped me along the way to becoming the attorney that I am today. Judge Bettis is among the first mentors I had — though I don’t know if he understood how he helped me. Mainly, I appreciated his willingness to seek my advice, when I had no experience to fall back on. It didn’t mean that he followed my advice — just that he listened.