CLEVELAND -- A word of advice to any offender appearing before Judge Michael Ryan. Blaming your troubles on a tough life won't get you any pity in Ryan's courtroom.
Channel 3's Russ Mitchell sat down with Ryan to talk about how he overcame his own struggles in life.
In fact, Michael Ryan's road to a seat on a Cleveland court bench was anything but smooth. As a child he saw uncles, cousins, and his stepfather sentenced to jail time in the very courthouse where he now administers justice.
"I didn't meet my biological father until I was 22 because he was already in prison by the time I was born," Ryan explains.
His early years were spent moving from apartment to apartment in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Cleveland. He attended 11 different schools from kindergarten to the 12th grade.
Ryan's mother was a drug addict. She died when he was 13 years old.
"That was a very low point for me, very difficult to understand," Ryan recalls.
But Ryan says something inside of him told him to keep going. He didn't want to end up like so many of his friends and relatives. He discovered he loved to learn and decided he could help people like those close to him who had lost their way by working hard and becoming a lawyer.
"Despite the horrific things that were going on around me I could always study and always get the good grades and that would keep me grounded," Ryan says.
He excelled in school and earned a full scholarship to Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania where he majored in English, and decided to pursue a career in law while taking a civil liberties class.
After Allegheny, Ryan graduated from Cleveland Marshall College of Law and worked for several private law firms and for Cleveland's law director before becoming a magistrate judge 6 years ago.
Ryan says he tells kids who don't think they have a chance to look at him.
When asked what Ryan's mother would think of her son's achievements, Ryan says, "I think she'd be really proud, that my sister and I were able to overcome so much and be successful like we are today. But I wish she were here so she could see everything I was able to do."
More Black History coverage