From Italy to Marysville, one could say newly appointed Magistrate John Cannizzaro has lived the American dream.
“English is my second language,” he said, without any hint of an accent.
Cannizzaro, who was appointed magistrate May 1, recently sat down with the Journal-Tribune to talk about his life, how he got into law and his new job in the Union County Common Pleas Court.
Cannizzaro said he has practiced law in Marysville for about 37 years, though he and his family came to America from Italy in 1955, when he was only four years old. His father, a tailor, had a good business in Italy, but felt there would be more for his family in America.
“He felt the opportunities in America were such that he couldn’t pass it up,” he said.
So Cannizzaro’s family waited for their number to come up.
“Back in those days, you had to put your name on a list,” he said. “When your name came up, they asked if you wanted to come over.”
His family moved to upstate New York, where his father eventually opened his own tailoring business, and a young Cannizzaro went off to law school. He said he was inspired to enter law “to provide assistance and guidance to people at the point in their lives when they needed it most.”
Specifically, he was attracted to bankruptcy law because it provided a unique opportunity to help people from many walks of life who had “fallen into the financial and personal abyss.”
Cannizzaro attended law school at Capital University, where by coincidence he met future partner Don Fraser, who is now judge in the common pleas court. He and Fraser have been friends ever since, he said.
His first job out of college was practicing at a law office on Fourth Street in Marysville. Cannizzaro joked that there was a single copier shared by everyone, and his “office” was in a hallway. At that point, he did a bit of everything.
In the early 1980s, Fraser joined him in Marysville and they formed their own practice. Over the years, several other lawyers have joined them, including former magistrate Don Jillisky, who Cannizzaro replaced. For the magistrate’s position Cannizzaro had to leave the practice, now named Bridges, Jillisky and Streng, LLC.
The move is bittersweet for Cannizzaro. He said he’s going to miss interacting with clients.
“Leaving the practice that I started in 1980 was certainly difficult,” he said. “It’s kind of like a parent watching their child go off to college and start their own lives.”
Despite that, when Fraser approached him for the magistrate position, Cannizzaro said he was “intrigued.” He said part of the reason he accepted the position was to give back to the local community, which he said has treated him well for four decades. Being able to work with Fraser didn’t hurt, either.
“I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to serve in a judicial capacity with someone I greatly admire and respect,” he said.
He said working at the common pleas court will also let him help a larger number of people. In the end, he said that’s what the common pleas court is for. He said he hopes people feel that they’ve been treated fairly, and given their “day in court.”
“I feel truly blessed to be able to work for the common pleas court,” he said.
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