Donning the robes of justice

Published 11:06 am Thursday, December 23, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - On a cold December afternoon, one of the courtrooms in the Berrien County South County Building was filled to capacity. But it wasn't a hotly contested trial which drew the crowd to the courtroom. Instead it was a ceremony of passing the torch from one generation to the next.
It was a family affair at the Berrien County 5th District Court in Niles as John M. Donahue was sworn in as the Berrien County 2nd District Circuit Court Judge Wednesday.
Donahue was surrounded by friends and family, including his mother Lois, sister Patty Eycleshymer, and his uncle, Mowitt S. Drew III, before he took his oath in front of Paul Maloney, Chief Judge of the Berrien Court Trial Court, who presided over the ceremony.
Donahue was elected to his new position of circuit court judge Nov. 3, when he and state Rep. Charles LaSata each won seats being vacated by outgoing Circuit Court Judges John T. Hammond and Casper O. Grathwohl.
Before Donahue was sworn in, Eycleshymer welcomed all who were in attendance and introduced Donahue and his family before others stepped forward to speak on Donahue's behalf.
Eycleshymer explained that Donahue would be swearing upon the Bible which belonged to his grandmother.
The family had attempted to find a picture of the late Edwin J. Donahue Jr., who served as Municipal Court Judge in Niles from 1961 through 1969, which later was found in the court building.
Donahue's cousin, attorney Sean Mowitt, was the first speaker who congratulated Donahue on his appointment of circuit court judge.
James Straub, president of Straub, Seaman &Allen, P.C. in St. Joseph, the law firm where Donahue has worked for the past 15 years, said how time and time again, Donahue had demonstrated his abilities as a lawyer.
Straub recounted a story of how Donahue had flipped his car while driving in a terrible snowstorm to get to a trial. Donahue escaped the accident unscathed, but Straub said the story demonstrated Donahue's dedication to his craft.
Straub said he was sure Donahue was prepared to fulfill his duties as a circuit court judge.
Judge Al Butzbaugh spoke of Donahue's father, who gave him respect when Butzbaugh argued before the elder Donahue when he was a young lawyer.
Judge Grathwohl, who Donahue worked under as a law clerk, spoke of Donahue's grandfather, who practiced with Grathwohl's father in the late 1930s. Grathwohl imparted one bit of advice which he received from Donahue's father long ago.
The final speaker, Judge Hammond, asked Donahue to rise and approach the podium as the time came for Donahue to be sworn in as a Berrien County Circuit Court Judge.
With his wife holding the tattered and worn Bible which belonged to his grandmother, Donahue swore to uphold the values of the court in all his actions.
Donahue thanked everyone and entrusted the Donahue Law Building in downtown Niles to his cousin Sean Drew.