Black Excellence Kicks off Black History Month: Judge Michael John Ryan ‘93

Judge Michael John Ryan '93

Michael John Ryan is one of twelve judges that serve on Ohio’s 8th District Court of Appeals. Ohio has 12 District Courts of Appeal that resolve both appeals and some original actions from lower courts within their district. Since assuming the position a year ago, he has been involved in a range of decisions to resolve disagreements in one of 75 lower courts. 

These include felony, misdemeanor, domestic relations, juvenile and probate issues with judges’ in the district, then their appeal is resolved by Ryan and his colleagues.

He says, “Our court is referred to as the court of last resort, because parties have a right to appeal to our court. Parties, however, do not have a right to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. The latter court, outside of death penalty appeals, uses their discretion to accept cases. I enjoy the work that I do, because I get an opportunity to research the law and then make law by affirming a decision or reversing a case.”

As only one of two African American men, out of the sixty-nine appellate court judges in Ohio, he has served as an elected judge for 19 years. Ryan believes his time at Allegheny prepared him for the challenges of his vocation. And he certainly embraced just about every opportunity he could to grow and contribute to the community. 

During his time at the College, he was a senator for the Allegheny Student Government and was Vice President and President of the Advancement of Black Culture. He also played football for two years and was a four-year letterman for the Track and Field team, earning him a Student Athlete Award. Ryan was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., worked at Brooks Hall and then the Bookstore for the Work Study program. As if that was not enough involvement, he also participated in a few theater productions and served on the committee that created the initial Harassment Policy for Allegheny College.

Ryan says “Allegheny College helped to mold me into an individual that was capable of communicating orally and in writing. Every class focused on oral presentation and improving written communication skills. The foundation I received at Allegheny prepared me for law school and the legal profession. People often see attorneys on television in a courtroom advocating for their clients. Yet, most cases are decided by written motions. Accordingly, the oratory and writing skills I received at Allegheny were vital to my success both as an attorney and now as a Court of Appeals judge. I used my oratory skills as a litigator when trying cases before judges and juries. I used my writing skills in arguing motions.”

In addition to his vitally important work, he is finishing a teleplay that is play/movie that is an adaptation of his book, “The Least Likely…from the Housing Projects to the Courthouse,” which he hopes will be available next year.