Judge Christopher Boyko moves up to federal bench in Ohio

by John Fedynsky

CLEVELAND - The federal bench welcomed another Ukrainian American to its exclusive club on Friday, March 4. Courtroom 19A of the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Courthouse in downtown Cleveland swelled with a standing-room-only crowd for the investiture of Christopher A. Boyko as United States district judge of the Northern District of Ohio. An overflow crowd down the hall, as well as interested persons in Toledo over 100 miles west, witnessed the event through a video feed.

The ceremony was the culmination of a process that formally began on July 22, 2004, when President George W. Bush nominated Mr. Boyko. With the support of Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, (D-Ohio), and the highest rating from the American Bar Association, Mr. Boyko gained the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee within two weeks. Shortly after the re-election of President Bush, the Senate unanimously confirmed Mr. Boyko on November 20, 2004.

Judge Boyko, while new to the federal bench, served for several years as a judge in Ohio. Mr. Voinovich, who at the time was governor, appointed Mr. Boyko a municipal judge. Mr. Voinovich later named him judge of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas effective January 29, 1996; voters retained him until his rise to the federal bench. Before becoming a judge, Mr. Boyko worked in private practice and then as a prosecutor.

His career followed the example set by his father, Andrew Boyko, who is a retired Ohio judge. Before his judicial career, his father became a local political legend renowned for winning a local campaign as a write-in candidate when he distributed pencils urging voters to "write-in Boyko." Mr. Boyko's proud parents beamed as they witnessed, with their extended family, the elevation of their son to the federal bench.

Geri M. Smith, clerk of the court, opened the special session. She introduced several local federal bankruptcy, magistrate and district judges. Also present was a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and judges from the U.S Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, the court above Judge Boyko's court.

Father Dale Staysniak, pastor of St. Anthony's Church in Parma, delivered the invocation. Chief Judge James G. Carr welcomed the public, led it in the Pledge of Allegiance and introduced the first speaker.

Sen. Voinovich praised Judge Boyko's credentials and temperament. He noted that it was a great day for Ukrainian Americans. He surmised that perhaps Judge Boyko foresaw himself following in the footsteps of another Ukrainian American federal judge, Senior Judge Futey of the United States Court of Federal Claims.

A representative of Sen. DeWine spoke on his behalf and quoted some of the remarks the senator made in support of Mr. Boyko before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Judge Richard J. McMonagle of the Court of Common Pleas joked as he wished Mr. Boyko well on his "lateral" move.

U.S. Rep. Steven C. Latourette spoke of his days as a student with Mr. Boyko at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He said that a professor told the beginning law students in front of him to look closely at his or her neighbors because one in three of them would not finish law school. He joked that Mr. Boyko looked pretty sure of himself when he laid eyes on LaTourette.

Ms. Smith then read Judge Boyko's commission. Mr. Boyko rose with Roberta, his wife, and Philip and Ashley, his children, to take his oath. He pledged to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, and to faithfully and impartially discharge his duties. His son placed the judge's robe on his father, and the court erupted into applause.

U.S. Marshal Peter J. Elliott escorted Judge Boyko to his place on the bench. The judge individually thanked the many members of his extended family. He joked about the professions of his three brothers, imagining a scenario in which the paramedic takes an injured person to the surgeon, whom the attorney then halls into court before their brother the judge.

Judge Boyko concluded with heartfelt remarks about his Ukrainian heritage. He recounted that all four of his grandparents came from villages within 10 miles of each other in Ukraine. Commenting on the Orange Revolution, he said their "courageous spirit lives on in a free Ukraine."

Judge Boyko concluded by noting that his Ukrainian ancestors "call upon me now to take this robe and dispense justice according to my solemn oath and the moral compass they have entrusted to all generations. Should I successfully discharge this sacred trust, a piece of my soul may find its way back, to join my Kozak forefathers in the great steppes of Ukraine, where the brave live on, forever."

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, March 20, 2005, No. 12, Vol. LXXIII

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