I always thought the job of a judge was to simply pass judgment. But Cuyahoga Juvenile Court Judge Michael Ryan pursues his job with a much greater purpose.
Ryan relates to many of the children he sees in his courtroom, as Judge Ryan didn’t have it easy growing up.
“(My) mom was 14 when she got pregnant with me. My biological father wasn’t involved in our lives because he had been arrested and eventually convicted of bank robbery,” Judge Ryan told me.
Judge Ryan said his step-father was abusive towards his mother.
He explained, “I have too many horrific memories of waking up to her screaming for help or just being awake seeing him slamming her punching her, kicking her choking her. That occurred at least twice a month that he would brutalize my mom.”
Both parents were addicted to drugs. Judge Ryan knew he wanted more for his life. Sports provided hope for a better future.
“Sports was I call it one the vehicles I used to drive myself away from the poverty and the tragedy that I was experiencing almost a daily basis,” He recalled. “Sports gave me the drive that I needed the competitive edge that i needed and it transferred from sports to academic arena.
"I try to give them hope"
Ryan went on to college and law school before becoming judge near to the community where he was raised.
“I thought this was a way for me to really give back because I see some many kids who are in the same circumstances that I was in and I try to give them hope that you can take control of some things in your life and change the trajectory of your life from something that’s going to be destructive to something that is going to be constructive,” Judge Ryan explained.
He added, “I try to give them the tools that they need to avoid coming back to this courtroom unless they are coming back here as a lawyer.”
Judge Ryan doesn’t stay behind the bench and just preach.
“I get to come down. I am always open and accessible to these young people. (I) Shake hands, hug them and tell them you are valuable and you need to believe that,” he explained.
Judge Ryan’s story is one of triumph and perseverance. He gives phrases like , “Never give up,” and “No excuses,” a face and a real story. As children come to his courtroom to receive his judgment, they ultimately leave with his guidance.
Judge Ryan wrote a book called “The Least Likely”