Leadership and Legal Lineage: Court Administrative Director's Perfect Pairing
By Csaba Sukosd | November 21, 2019
The Ohio Supreme Court revolves around seven justices, but beyond the bench, there are hundreds of employees in 12 divisions who provide the jurists with professional support. Fittingly, the Court's highest-ranking officer is an Army veteran, administrative director Jeffrey Hagler.
On the job since July, after nearly 30 years of active duty, fate brought the Xenia native back to the Buckeye state. Through networking, he heard about an expected vacancy for a court administrator position. As he waited for that job posting, he discovered another opening that caught him by surprise.
"Someone sent me a note, 'Is this the job you're waiting for?' It was the Ohio Supreme Court administrative director. I said, 'No, but I may as well give it a try and apply for it,'" Hagler said.
The ability to shift from one role to the next has become second nature for the former colonel. In his 29 years of service, he changed jobs roughly every two years. Adaptation and assimilation were some of the skills necessary for him to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy.
"One of the things that West Point does teach you how to do is to balance a number of things and succeed at each of them," Hagler said. "You may not excel at any of them, but none of the plates are going to fall off."
Driven by a desire to lead people immediately after his graduation, he envisioned a career path in combat. But after being diagnosed with a chronic shoulder condition, the then-infantry officer changed course.
As the son of former Greene County Probate Judge Robert A. Hagler - who was the longest serving common pleas court judge in Ohio when he retired after 41 years in 2013 - the legal profession was always something Hagler considered. Utilizing a military program that would pay for his studies, Hagler got his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He then spent next two decades working his way up the Army ladder from a junior judge advocate to an appellate judge in the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
"You just never know what the next day's going to bring you. In Afghanistan, we had rule of law issues. In Kuwait and Iraq, we had issue after issue as it related to the fight against ISIS," said Hagler.
As his time in the service was winding down, the father of four wanted to get closer to his roots, while keeping his professional pursuits. For him, Ohio's court of last resort was the perfect fit.
"The chance to be part of something that's important, that stands for something, that has a unifying mission, that everyone who works for it contributes to that mission," Hagler said. "And at the same time, having something that would be challenging every day."