EAST LIVERPOOL — Only two years after taking the bench, East Liverpool Municipal Court Judge Dominic Frank died early Saturday morning reportedly following a lengthy battle with COVID-19.
He had been a patient at the East Liverpool City Hospital.
Frank had a lot of ideas for how he wanted to make the legal system even better for the residents in southern Columbiana County, but unexpectedly ended up with limited time to see all of those ideas to fruition.
During his long career he had worked on all sides of the legal profession. After working in the local steel industry before the closure of Crucible Steel, Frank started his legal career by working in law enforcement, joining the St. Clair Township police department in 1984. Then after earning his law degree in 1992, he became a respected attorney working on all sides of the legal profession. In the 1990s he ran unsuccessfully for county prosecutor.
His next attempt at elected office was when he successfully ran for judge in 2019. Along the way, Frank made many friends with law enforcement, at the courthouses where he practiced through the years and throughout the community.
“Judge Frank was a great attorney, and an even better judge, because more importantly, he was a kind and decent person,” said retired Judge Mark Frost. “He grew up in a wonderful family that instilled in him values that are sometimes considered old-fashioned: hard work, loyalty, honesty, compassion, faith, dedication, and a desire to help others.”
Frank was very community oriented and believed in helping people. Retired police officer Kim Nusser, who worked with him during his years at St. Clair Township, said Frank remained a close friend long after he, Charlie Burgess and Frank all left the department for other opportunities.
“He was just an all-around good guy,” Nusser said. “I think he did a lot of things for people, even for those people who could not afford an attorney.”
Although Frank had left as a police officer before current St. Clair Police Chief Brian McKenzie came to the department, McKenzie said he still had a great friendship with Frank and did not know if there was a nicer person in the area. He said Frank’s perspective as a law enforcement officer helped him later in his career.
“He always answered his phone no matter what,” McKenzie said. “He was a defense attorney for some of my cases, but he always treated me fairly… He was always there for my guys.”
Attorney Charley Kidder, who also currently serves as the Democrat Chairman for Columbiana County, said his relationship for Frank goes back 30 years before Kidder was an attorney and long before the announcement on snowy courthouse steps of Frank’s decision to run for judge. Kidder remembers Frank as someone who mentored a lot of the younger attorneys. Even though Frank was “tough to beat” in court, Kidder said you always knew Frank would be fair.
They worked well together in different roles, for instance Kidder serving as a magistrate in Wellsville Municipal Court, when Frank was the village’s solicitor and Christopher Weeda was the public defender at one point. More recently, Kidder served as a public defender with Weeda as the prosecutor in front of Frank in his role as the East Liverpool Municipal Court judge, while another long-time friend of Frank, retired East Liverpool officer Don Fickes, served the court as the bailiff.
John Gamble, former chief county prosecuting attorney and current assistant city prosecuting attorney in East Liverpool, also practiced with Frank, against him and in front of him during their long careers.
“Dom was a dear friend,” Gamble said after hearing of Frank’s death. “His only love greater than East Liverpool and the Potters was his family and Hoi Wah. I will miss him. Our community lost a wonderful, dedicated public servant.”
“Dom will be greatly missed. He always treated you with respect, whether you were a new attorney, opposing counsel, or litigant in his courtroom,” said Ryan Weikart, current chief assistant county prosecutor. “He loved his job, his family, and his hometown. My prayers and sympathy go out to his family.”
Frank always talked with pride about his four sons, who in many ways follow the family tradition of serving the public. Frank had followed in his parent’s footsteps and was a public servant who believed in the community where he lived and the people in it. At different times during his career, he served in the villages of Salineville and Wellsville and Liverpool Township. He served as assistant county prosecutor for a time, then was involved in private practice and he managed a local branch office for Betras, Kopp & Harshman LLC.
“He truly loved his hometown and always tried to do right by the people in it,” Frost said. “East Liverpool, Columbiana County and all who knew Dom have lost a truly decent man, and I personally have lost a dear friend.”
“No one loved East Liverpool more than Dom,” Kidder said. “It was fitting he got to serve the community he loved.”