For more than 30 years, from the law office to the bench, Diana Morris has worked alongside Jackson County Municipal Court Judge Mark T. Musick. In recognition of her decades of steadfastness, a surprise retirement party was held Friday, July 24 inside the Municipal Courtroom, affording friends, colleagues and family members the opportunity to deliver a well-deserved send-off.  

What initially started as a search for an additional staffer at Musick’s 287 Pearl St., Jackson law office, serendipitously forged a lifelong bond both inside and outside of the workplace.

“Suzi Cales and I had been working and trying to establish a full practice as I had in recent years seen former law practice partners move on to the bench,” Judge Musick explained, referencing former partners Leonard Holzapfel and Stephen Michael and their move to the positions of Common Pleas Court Judge and Probate/Juvenile Court Judge, respectively. “We had the makings of a nice practice concentrating on the areas where we could excel. We very much needed an extraordinary person to join with us in our efforts when Bonnie (Eisnaugle) Dameron explained that her friend Diana might be interested, and that Diana ‘understands things.’ Almost right then, I knew that I wanted to meet Diana. So, Diana and I sat down and talked. Then, I saw right away that Diana does ‘understand things.’ I hired her on the spot, never regretted it, and never had to look back!”

In an era where computers were not yet in the forefront, the newly formed team of Musick, Cales and Morris developed a system and “took off.”

“We began producing some of the most professional-looking materials and the staff made it pay as once we had conquered a specific area, they made sure we never lost that ground again,” Judge Musick told The Telegram. “Diana provided a system of retaining materials, indexing it, and then easily and appropriately reproducing the same types of documents.”

The judge went on to say that, given Morris’s ability to understand and adapt, his law office was able to pass on savings to its clients, while at the same time bringing in additional revenue. As the years progressed, the technology continued to develop and Morris took on a slew of additional responsibilities, especially in 2008, when Musick first took on the role of Municipal Court Judge, having defeated incumbent Lorene Johnston in November 2007.

“I would submit that Diana’s work saved many people a lot of money and still allowed the law office to be economically productive,” Judge Musick stated. “This is an attempt by me to explain Diana, but moreover, she could adapt to almost any situation as was proven when she assumed the duties of Clerk of the Municipal Court with hundreds of things being thrown at her without warning. Honestly, she couldn’t rely on me a lot as I had my own hands full in assuming the court administration duties. However, Diana found her own way, and once again using her ability to understand things, figured out her own way and all I know is that the state and county auditors greatly appreciated her.”

Regarding the statement pertaining to auditors, Judge Musick spoke of an instance near the start of his reign as judge, when a state auditor sent an email “reminding” Morris of a next-day meeting during which the court’s disaster plan would be audited. In reality, however, he said the auditor’s office had emailed the former Municipal Court Clerk some months prior with notice of the audit, giving Morris just one day to prepare.

“Diana did not panic, but rather created a disaster plan, met with the examiner the next day and passed the audit with flying colors,” Judge Musick explained. “Diana’s disaster plan dictated how the court would operate if our home base would be disabled in any way.”

While the judge, at that time, could not have imagined his court ever having to implement such a disaster plan, it in fact did in 2011, 2019 and 2020, following a complete flood, issues with mold and, of course, the current situation of “keeping the court running during the financial chaos created by COVID-19.”

Aside from this example, Judge Musick said Morris has been central in the creation of Jackson County’s Drug Court, the Probation Department, Community Service program, the court’s structure, training, and nearly all phases of day-to-day court operations. Further, just as she had done in the beginning at the law office, Morris continued to keep the financial engines running at the court, assuming responsibility for millions of dollars and “never being off even a thin dime.”

All of these accolades, though, merely supplement what Judge Musick considers to be Morris’s most redeeming quality – that of loyalty.

“In terms of both creating success and preventing disaster, Diana has been just what the doctor (or lawyer) ordered,” he said. “Moreover, over the years, as other law firms might attempt to lure her away from us, perhaps we found her best quality of tenacious loyalty, which was so apparent that I never had cause to be concerned, as she just laughed at those things.”

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, July 24, Morris found herself surrounded with gifts, praise and general gratitude, courtesy of the innumerable souls she has impacted over the past three decades. When the celebration drew to a close and his longtime go-to person logged her official last day, Judge Musick issued his summation of Morris in an attempt to encapsulate such a longstanding relationship.

“We love and appreciate Diana and the three decades-plus of her service, allegiance and dedication to all projects, clients and us,” he said. “There are none better, none more diversely talented and none more loyal.”