New Pleas Court judge hits the bench running

Submitted photo Lynsey Lyle-Opalenik was sworn in as magistrate of the Domestic Relations Division of Columbiana County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Scott Washam of Common Pleas Court administered the oath. At the right is Judge Megan Bickerton.

LISBON — New Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Bickerton is moving into her office this week, but she is not the only one moving around at the courthouse.

Lynsey Lyle-Opalenik was sworn in Monday as the magistrate of the Domestic Relations Division in the Common Pleas Court.

Bickerton said Lyle-Opalenik has extensive experience as an attorney in the domestic relations field and was “very qualified” for the position. She was happy Lyle-Opalenik agreed to make the switch to magistrate.

Lyle-Opalenik has been an associate attorney with the Amato Law Office since 2010. She is a 2002 graduate of Wellsville High School and lives in St. Clair Township with her husband Brian and their two daughters, Olivia and Cassie.

She replaces Katelyn Dickey, who had been appointed to the magistrates position in March when the former magistrate, Kathleen Bartlett, was appointed to a vacancy on the Ohio Seventh District Court of Appeals. Bartlett was not re-elected in November.

Dickey, of Lisbon, previously served as a staff attorney for the courts and received a termination letter signed by Administrative Judge Scott Washam.

Bickerton said she and Washam also spoke with Dickey about the decision to make a change.

Another change was the termination of Cindy Souder, who served for many years as the official court reporter in the courtroom where Bickerton will be the judge.

Bickerton said Douglas Bettis has been interviewed about serving as a court reporter and both Bettis and the current court reporter in Washam’s courtroom, Rikki Torella, will serve as a staff for the courts. Bickerton said one of the things she really wants to do is look at ways to unify the staff, making it all under one umbrella so everyone is working and coordinating between the two courts.

Bickerton noted she and Washam have had a great working relationship so far and they are working together on making these changes to have staff members available for both of the courts. Bailiff Linda Hill remains in her position.

While Bickerton has not began hearing cases, she said she is spending this week checking the cases on her docket to make sure there are none left where there is a conflict — any case where she had a substantial role while she was still serving in the county prosecutor’s office. She believes there will not be that many because after learning in May she had defeated incumbent Judge C. Ashley Pike in the Republican primary, Bickerton stopped accepting new cases in the prosecutor’s office and spent more time prosecuting cases in East Liverpool Municipal Court.

Additionally, Bickerton said she is unfamiliar with the details of the Operation Big Oak cases, which are being prosecuted by the Ohio attorney general’s prosecutors. Many remaining Operation Big Oak cases are scheduled to be heard in Bickerton’s courtroom during the next three months.