Judges, lawyers in Ohio rock for charity

BY ERICA BLAKE The (Toledo) Blade Published:

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- From a tucked-away jury assembly room on the third floor of the Toledo Municipal Courthouse and just down the hall from where misdemeanor criminal cases are dealt with every day, a loud, rhythmic sound recently came crashing into the hall.

At first, it's the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" that rang through the hallways. Then "Mustang Sally," a Mack Rice song popularized by Wilson Pickett, filled the third floor.

It's not the smoothest of sounds heard during the evening hours at the courthouse. But members of Jingle Balls promise that when the group hits the stage for a charity concert, the audience not only will be entertained, they'll be rocking.

"Jingle Balls is a rock band comprised almost exclusively of members of the local Bar and bench, as well as court and clerk employees and others," explained Municipal Court Judge Michael Goulding, one of the group's drummers. "(It) plays only two shows per year, a world tour of the 43604 zip code, if you will."

The band's origins date to 2007, when lawyers by day and musicians at heart got to talking. They then started jamming. And since it was around the holidays and Christmas music was on their playlist, the band Jingle Balls was formed.

Now, the group comes together for a few months every year to practice for a December concert held for charity.

"I started playing the guitar a couple of years ago and my ex-(legal) partner, (Judge Goulding), thought I'd be qualified for Jingle Balls," said attorney Martin Mohler, who, dressed in a shirt and tie, recently rocked out on a Fender Stratocaster, an electric guitar.

The band's makeup is fluid, with musicians coming and going. Members include judges, magistrates, law clerks, and lawyers.

Some members are in bands of their own that play regularly in the area. Others hit the stage only this time a year.

Attorney Jim Anderson said the group usually starts practicing in October or November. And although the members begin a bit rusty, they have a fun time polishing off their sound.

"We're doing something that we don't get a chance to do anymore in our lives," Anderson said when taking a quick break from a set of playing the guitar and singing. "And we always play for a charity, so we're doing something positive for the community at the same time."

The group has donated hundreds of dollars to local charities, including The Josh Project.

Wanda Butts, a Toledo Municipal Court assignment clerk, is founder of The Josh Project, an organization created in honor of her 16-year-old son, Josh, who drowned in August, 2006.

The nonprofit group works to provide swim lessons and water-safety instruction for inner-city youth.

"I'm very humbled and grateful for the fact that they did choose The Josh Project this year," Butts said.

"They are worth going to see," she added, noting she has been to a Jingle Balls concert in the past. "They're a lot of fun and they'll make you want to dance. I'm looking forward to going this year."