Judges of the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals

Judge Peter B. Abele

Judge Peter B. Abele is married and has three children.

Education: B.S. from Bowling Green State University (1979), and J.D. from Capital University Law School (1982).

Career: Judge Abele has served as an Assistant Vinton County Prosecutor (1982-1985); Athens City Prosecutor (1985-1988); Referee in the Athens County Common Pleas Court (1988-1991); and Judge of the Fourth District Court of Appeals. In addition to serving on the Fourth District, Judge Abele has served by appointment to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Presiding Judge Jason P. Smith

Judge Smith lives in Ironton with his wife, Kelly and daughter, Marley.

Judge Smith is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association and the Lawrence County Bar Association, where he was the Chair of the Criminal Defense Section.

Education: Judge Smith graduated from Ironton High School (Summa Cum Laude) in 1993, Ohio University (Summa Cum Laude) in 1996 and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 1999.

Career: After law school Judge Smith worked as an assistant prosecutor in Lawrence County and was a partner in the law firm Stillpass, Delawder & Smith. Judge Smith also spent time as in-house counsel for McGinnis, Inc. in South Point, Ohio. Prior to coming to the bench Judge Smith had his own solo practice focusing on criminal defense and domestic cases.

Administrative Judge Michael D. Hess

Judge Hess resides in Pickaway County with his wife, Stephanie and daughter, Ellie.

Judge Hess is also very active in the community, holding positions on the Berger Health Foundation Board, the Pickaway County Park District Board, City of Circleville Civil Service Commission and many more. In 2013, Judge Hess was named the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Attorney of the Year for the state of Ohio.

Education: Judge Hess earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Bowling Green State University, and his Juris Doctorate from Capital University School of Law.

Career: Judge Michael Hess was elected to serve as a judge on Ohio's Fourth District Court of Appeals for a six-year term beginning on February 10, 2019. Prior to his service on the bench, Judge Hess had a varied legal career: he was in private practice for over 15 years, served as the Chief Assistant Pickaway County Prosecutor, Solicitor for the Villages of Commercial Point, Laurelville, New Holland and Obetz and served as a Circleville City Council member.


Judge Kristy S. Wilkin

Judge Kristy S. Wilkin was appointed to the 4th District Court of Appeals by Governor Mike DeWine on July 24, 2020.  Prior to serving on the Court of Appeals, Judge Wilkin was a partner with Peelle Law Offices Co., LPA, where she worked for the last 14 years.  Areas of practice included civil litigation, juvenile law, probate, real estate, domestic relations, and business transactions.  She served as an adjunct professor at Southern State Community College and held a judicial externship in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. She is also a graduate of the Jo Ann Davidson Leadership Institute, an esteemed leadership development program. 


Judge Wilkin understands the critical need for access to our judicial system and the right to appeal decisions to a higher level when further review is necessary in a case by case basis.   She brings a unique perspective and familiarity with concerns of local communities as she practiced across 15 county courts throughout the southern half of the state of Ohio. With a passion for equal justice and a special interest in civil litigation, she can remain objective to the case presented.


A former NCAA Division I athlete, Judge Wilkin graduated cum laude from Xavier University with a degree in Accounting and graduated in the top 10 percent of her class at the Ohio Northern University, Pettit School of Law. Wilkin also served as the associate editor of the Law Review. Judge Wilkin resides on a small farm in Highland County, Ohio, with her Husband Shane Wilkin and her two daughters, Piper (10) and Parker (9). 

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