Members of the community gathered in Delaware Municipal Court Friday afternoon to give best wishes to Judge David Sunderman before he concludes his record-setting term at the end of the year.
Sunderman was elected to the judgeship in 2001 and began serving as judge in January 2002. He did not seek re-election and will be followed by Kyle Rohrer, who was elected to the position in November. Sunderman was joined by fellow judges, elected officials, law enforcement, victim advocates and local attorneys.
Former Congressman Pat Tiberi attended the event and said Sunderman’s retirement was “bittersweet.”
“He brought such a distinguished nature to the court,” Tiberi said. “He was a consummate professional. A really good judge, and it never went to his head. He was always very humble. He was a good servant leader as a judge and a great role model for other judges in terms of his demeanor and the way he conducted himself on the court and off.”
Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley, who was one of the first people at the party, said he is thankful for the seven years they worked together when Gormley was also a municipal court judge.
“He’s such a kind, thoughtful, and hardworking person,” Gormley said. “He was always calm and reasonable.”
Gormley said he and Sunderman never had a disagreement in the seven years they worked together when it came to matters like budgets.
“He’s a real gentleman,” Gormley said. “This is a big loss for the community. He leaves a great legacy.”
Likewise, Delaware Municipal Court Clerk Cindy Dinovo said she worked with Sunderman even before she was elected in 2007, adding he’ll be missed.
“I’ve known Judge Sunderman for 12 years,” she said. “I’ve worked with him as a defense counsel and as a judge, and I think he was a great judge. He has great judicial temperament, lots of patience, and he was fair to the participants in court. He will be truly missed.”
Delaware County Commissioner Gary Merrell said Sunderman has been a positive influence on the county, and he’s glad Sunderman is going out on “a high note.”
“He was such a fantastic, well-respected judge in Delaware city and Delaware County,” Merrell said. “It’s great that he goes out on such a high note with so many people who respect and trust what he’s done to benefit this county. It’s a loss, but it’s a good loss because he’s retiring and he gets to do what he wants to do now.”
City of Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said he and Sunderman have worked in the same building for more than a decade, and he’s thankful for the friendship.
“We’ve been neighbors for such a long time in this building,” Pijanowski said. “It’s nice to have that professional relationship and a personal relationship. It’s sad to see him go, but at the same time, we know we have a good judge coming in, so it’s bittersweet.”
Fellow Delaware Municipal Court Judge Marianne Hemmeter said that when she became a municipal court judge in 2015, Sunderman served as a mentor for her as she learned the ins and outs of the judgeship.
“He’s been a wonderful mentor, coworker, and more importantly, a friend,” Hemmeter said. “We all come to the bench with different experiences, and it was nice, as a new judge, to have somebody who takes his work very seriously, takes the business of this court very seriously, but always would make time for my questions and make sure I understood why the court did certain things, certain ways. It really made the transition for me much smoother.”
Hemmeter said she learned a lot from Sunderman, and he is to thank for making the Delaware Municipal Court one that many courts look to.
“I’ve learned a lot from Judge Sunderman and in a lot of ways,” Hemmeter said. “Him being here for 18 years, he really does embody what the municipal court is and is supposed to be. He told me his goal here was to make sure everyone here got a fair shake. He set the tone and the pace for this court that makes it the court it is today. We are one of the municipal courts that people respect and that’s because of Judge Sunderman.”
Hemmeter said she’ll miss Sunderman after he completes his term at the end of this month.
“He’ll be missed for his insight into how the court should work,” she said. “He’ll be missed because he knows the law; he’ll be missed for his demeanor; and quite frankly, he’ll be missed because he really cared about the people in this court.”
Incoming Municipal Court Judge Kyle Rohrer, who attended the celebration, will be sworn in Friday.
“From 2001 to 2006, I was in here every day as a prosecutor,” Rohrer said. “I almost feel like he taught me what a great judge should look like. I hope to model myself after him, because he has a great judicial temperament. I can’t say enough good things about him. He was a good mentor and friend.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.