Login | May 20, 2019

First female Mahoning Cty. Common Pleas judge remembered

Legal News Reporter

Published: June 7, 2018

She made history as the first woman to be elected judge in the general division of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court and as Youngstown’s first female city prosecutor, but those closest to Judge Maureen “Mo” Cronin said her real passion was protecting and fighting for the rights of children.

On May 6, the former judge passed away at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital at the age of 64.

Longtime friend and colleague Mahoning County Juvenile Court Magistrate Sam Amendolara described Judge Cronin as an “outgoing, personable and fun loving person,” who cared deeply about young people and their struggles.

“Maureen loved all children, especially her nieces and nephews,” said Amendolara. “As a judge she was always stern but fair, demanding that everyone focus on the proceedings at hand.”

Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge R. Scott Krichbaum said Judge Cronin was “affable, engaging and very intelligent.”

While he never appeared in front of her, Judge Krichbaum said she had a reputation of being “a tough judge, who always had good control over her docket.”

Born in Youngstown on July 23, 1953 to John (Jack) and Eileen Sullivan Cronin, she was the second youngest of their four children.

She grew up on the West Side of Youngstown, graduating from Ursuline High School.

It was in high school that she met Magistrate Sam Amendolara.

“I remember Maureen loved having fun,” said Amendolara. “She could dish things out, but she could also take them very well.”

The two also attended Youngstown State University at the same time.

After graduating from YSU with a bachelor’s degree in social work, Judge Cronin began her career as a social worker at Mahoning County Children Services.

Wade Smith, a sole practitioner in Boardman first met Judge Cronin while she was working at Children Services.

“Maureen was smart, sensitive and family-, children- and people-oriented,” said Smith.

She later decided to pursue her juris doctor, graduating from The University of Akron School of Law in 1986.

“I had my own practice when Maureen was in law school and she clerked for me,” said Amendolara. “After she graduated she worked as a lawyer in my office, handling domestic relations, juvenile, personal injury and estate matters.

“Maureen was a very good lawyer,” he said. “She was always well prepared and she was a very good advocate for her clients.”

In 1988 then-Youngstown Mayor Patrick Ungaro appointed her city prosecutor, making her the first woman to hold the position.

City of Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian served as an assistant prosecutor under Judge Cronin.

“We worked closely together and became good friends,” said Limbian. “She was an extraordinary lawyer and a lovely person.

“When she was elected to the bench I replaced her as prosecutor,” he said.

“The most remarkable thing about Maureen is she always had a social worker soul and mentality, which led her to seek justice for everyone and treat people fairly.

“She ended her career at a free clinic, where she helped the working poor receive medical treatment,” Limbian said.

Judge Krichbaum said it was while Judge Cronin was prosecutor that he got to know her well.

“I was a criminal defense lawyer at the time,” said Judge Krichbaum. “She was very enthusiastic and did a nice job running the office. I thought she had a great deal of potential.

“We became friends,” he said. “My wife and I would sometimes go out to dinner with Maureen and her companion Virgil. They were a lot of fun to be around and my wife and I enjoyed socializing with them.

“When Maureen ran for judge, she ran on a platform of being a tough prosecutor,” said Judge Krichbaum. “She promised to be a tough judge and I think she fulfilled that promise.”

Judge Cronin took the bench in the general division of the common pleas court in 1995.

Amendolara said he wasn’t surprised when she was elected judge.

“When we graduated from high school in 1971, a woman did not have a chance to be class president,” said Amendolara. “The school deemed it to be a role for a male student.

“Maureen always questioned and challenged that notion. A few years later the policy changed because of people like Maureen.

“She carried that fight for equality with her throughout her entire life, making history twice—first as Youngstown city prosecutor and later as the first female to be elected a general division common pleas court judge,” Amendolara said.

Smith served as Judge Cronin’s magistrate for a few years.

“She was a good person to work for because she was not the type to look over your shoulder,” said Smith. “She just let you do your job.

“As a judge, she was fair but could be tough when the situation called for it.”

When she retired from the bench in 2007, Judge Cronin returned to public service as the executive director of the Midlothian Free Health Clinic, where she remained for six years.

A memorial mass was held at St. Patrick Church in Youngstown on May 26 to pay tribute to Judge Cronin.

She leaves behind a sister, Kathleen (Mickey) Conway, a brother, Jim Cronin, an aunt, Betty Jane Fehrenbaugh, nieces, nephews, cousins and many good friends.

Her parents, brothers John and Bill, longtime partner Virgil Malaska, beloved dogs Sam and Simba and her feisty cat Figgy all preceded her in death.