First completing coursework at Mount St. Joseph University, Judge Nadine Lovelace Allen earned a bachelor’s degree from the Ohio State University. However, she found herself dissatisfied with the first job she got out of college and ultimately decided to take a law school aptitude test, inspired to the field by a female judge she knew. She passed the exam and was immediately admitted to the Capital University Law School, where she graduated with a Doctor of Jurisprudence. This was also the beginning of her becoming politically active as she became increasingly aware of the disparities within the legal system during the early years of her career. Licensed to practice law by the Ohio State Bar in 1977, Judge Allen became the first Black public defender appointed to the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati in 1978.
From 1979 to 1985, Judge Allen served as an attorney and public defender with the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office. Her early focus was misdemeanors, and it was during this time that she tried her first murder case, where she was able to successfully argue her client’s innocence by proving that the shot fired was meant to be a warning shot in response to the victim threatening her client and therefore the victim’s death was entirely accidental. In 1985, she became the first Black judge to be elected in a general election, something she had previously been told was impossible, making her victory all the sweeter. Judge Allen was the judge for the Hamilton County Municipal Court and the Common Pleas Court until 2009 and 2016, respectively.
In addition to being the first Black judge, Judge Allen was the first female Democrat to be elected to a county office and the first biracial person to be elected to any office in Hamilton County, being African American and Italian. As she progressed in her career, she sought additional court admittances and was licensed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in 1983 and the Supreme Court of the United States in 1987. She also contributed her skills to a variety of other professional endeavors, including serving as a member of the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners and as an adjunct professor in the paralegal studies program at the University of Cincinnati and as a special instructor in fairness and access to courts for the Ohio Supreme Court Judicial College.
Over the course of her career, Judge Allen devoted much of her time to addressing the inequalities and inequities of the judicial system. Her most notable work includes reducing marijuana offenses to a minor misdemeanor, dismissing over 30,000 stale criminal warrants, developing an interventional license program and expanding drug and alcohol programs. She also founded the Just Solutions Commission, which helped to establish alternatives to jail and diversion programs. Judge Allen is incredibly proud to have made such a significant impact on the lives of others and helped to save lives that would have been otherwise ruined by the criminal justice system.
Attributing much of her success to her long-standing desire for independence, Judge Allen also credits her determination and ability to see her goals through to completion, no matter what obstacles came her way. Her motto is “I loved everything I had to do to succeed.” Remaining active in her retirement, she has served on the board of trustees of the Cincinnati Bar Association, the executive committee of the Ohio Black Judges Association, and as legal counsel on the board of directors for the NAACP. Since 2018, she has served as the vice president and member of the board of trustees for the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library.
For her excellence, Judge Allen has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades, including the National Presidential Outstanding Volunteer Service Award. She has also received the Outstanding Woman of the Year Award from the Cincinnati Women’s Political Caucus, the Women of Achievement Award from the YWCA, and the NAACP Lifetime Service Award. A distinguished Marquis listee, Judge Allen was presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022.