GALLIPOLIS — As the year comes to a close, Gallia County Judge of Common Pleas Dean Evans reflected on his time of service Thursday while sitting in the common pleas courtroom where he’s served for 15 years. His term will soon expire Dec. 31.
Due to Ohio law, Evans, at the age of 70, can no longer run for the office of judge but he can however continue serving in a substitute role for judges potentially out on leave or in need of interim assistance. Evans said he continued to hope to serve the public even if not as often as before.
Evans graduated from Gallia Academy High School. He received his undergraduate degree in business administration from Marshall University and his J.D. from Capital University Law School. Evans was awarded the Order of the Curia for ranking sixth in his class.
According to Evans, he took an interest in law partially due to his wife Henny’s family as many of them were attorneys. They married in 1966 and they share two sons, William “Billy” and Davis, as well as multiple grandchildren. This year is their 50th anniversary.
Evans said he taught school for a few years at the Hannan Trace Local School District before deciding he would rather go into law. He would go on to establish a private practice which he continued for the next 28 years.
“I was an acting judge in the Gallipolis Municipal Court for about 22 years,” said Evans. “I was called upon at the time when they needed somebody and the succeeding judges kept appointing me. It’s not a day to day job. I might have only worked one week out of the month on an as needed basis.”
Evans would serve in a substitute role for judges on leave as an acting judge. He would eventually be appointed to succeed Gallia Common Pleas Judge Joe Cain once he retired. Evans finished out Cain’s term and would go on to win two elections for two six-year terms. His first day as a common pleas judge was July 12, 2001.
“I guess it stuck with me while I was doing the acting judge work,” said Evans about his initial desire to run for common pleas. “I had some people who encouraged me and people I respected, so I thought why not? It certainly ended up being more of a job than I imagined but I very much enjoyed it and worked hard.”
Evans went on to say that in his position he sometimes had to send people to prison more than one and was not proud of that. However, he had never sent anyone to prison he did not feel deserved it.
“I try to run a pretty tight ship,” said Evans. “I’m predictable and folk know what’s going to happen. When we have someone that’s placed on community control the law says you have to tell them what’s going to happen if they violate that. And that is what happens. (Both in warning and punishment for violation).”
Evans said he felt his upbringing under his parents with a focus on the necessity of discipline, fairness and kindness helped him in his journey as a judge.
“I wait to see what happens,” said Evans. “I can only judge the facts. I can’t prejudge anything. You can’t do anything until the facts come out. The jury will eventually decide the case when they see the facts to determine if someone is negligent or guilty of a crime. I just guide them. You go out there. You prejudge nothing. You listen to the evidence. You listen to the arguments of counsel and you sit in the shoes of the jurors if you have to make a decision that might not involve a juror.”
Before retiring, Evans received a Golden Gavel award in early December for his years of service from the Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association.
Although he will miss his time as a common sight among the Gallia County Courthouse, Evans said he looks forward to spending as much time with his grandchildren as possible.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.