Behind the Gavel: Judge Greg Stephens, an introvert who loves an adrenaline rush

This is the seventh part of the Journal-News’ “Behind the Gavel” series featuring Butler County judges. It takes a look at those who make difficult decisions daily and how they live outside of the courtroom.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens describes himself as an introvert with an eclectic taste and enthusiasm for fast-paced sports.

The West Chester Twp. native is an old movie fan, especially “the black and white stuff” and listens to vintage radio shows, but there’s also a Magic Eight ball on his desk and Japanese anime memorabilia in the book shelves.

No, Stephens doesn’t use the black-and-white ball to make judicial decisions, but he says at least one attorney gives it a shake before court hearings.

“I have a very stoic looking face, a quiet demeanor and a very dry sense of humor,” Stephens said with a grin. He knows sometimes it works for him, and sometimes people are left scratching their heads.

Stephens, a graduate of Lakota High School, Miami University and the University of Dayton School of Law, was appointed to the common pleas bench in 2016 after an 18-year career in the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office where he prosecuted cases in the felony child assault division and in the juvenile division. He also spent nearly two years on assignment as a full-time special assistant United States attorney in Cincinnati from February 2012 to November 2013.

The 53-year-old aspired to be an attorney from an early age and had an opportunity as a freshman to shadow a local attorney spending a few hours in the office and visiting the Historic Butler County Courthouse that, circa 1983, was the county’s only courthouse.

“That attorney was Pat Oney,” Stephens said.

The late Patricia Oney was later elected common pleas judge and sat at the same bench Stephens now occupies. Stephens was appointed to her judgeship when Oney retired a year early.

While still in the prosecutor’s office, Stephens also served as a minister in area churches and is still deeply rooted in his faith, teaching Sunday School at Bible Baptist Church in Fairfield.

How does his faith and the letter of the law gel together? He says it helps keep him on an even keel when making hard decisions.

“My faith is who I am, but I also have to understand I have to follow the law and act upon what is in the statutes and case law,” Stephens said. “Faith should impact a person’s temperance, can’t say I have always been successful, but I try to let it be a controlling influence in how I look at other people and how I treat other people.”

He noted everyone has their own story and background, “but underneath the hood, we are all just human beings.”

Stephens and his wife live in Fairfield Twp. and have two grown children. They enjoy hiking in areas like Red River Gorge and Hocking Hills.

“It’s quit, peaceful and relaxing,” he said.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like an adrenaline rush, especially when it comes to watching sports.

Stephens is a lifelong football fan, but also a fan of the Nashville Predators Ice Hockey team and rugby, which he called “the nonstop version of football.”

He and his son road tripped to Washington, D.C. to see their favorite team, the New Zealand All Blacks.

“I like the fast paced action,” Stephens said.

A childhood love of professional wrestling also continues today, but only in rerunning matches of that era.

“I like the stuff from 40 years ago,” Stephens said. “When they decided to tell everybody it was not real then it lost its luster. I like the old stuff where they actually were trying to convince you it was real. It was more athletic. It’s just not as clever or exciting anymore.”

While Stephens may dive into his extensive collection of DVDs featuring his favorite old flicks including Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, William Powell and Humphrey Bogart, he also is partial to movies and television shows of a little less vintage variety like “Caddy Shack”, “Stripes”, “Mr. Bean” and “Scrubs”.

A lot of people compare my sense of humor to Dr. (Perry) Cox on scrubs. Don’t know if it is fair or not,” Stephens said.

About the Author