CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court is mourning the death of a longtime judge, following his “long and courageous health battle.”

Judge Michael J. Russo died Monday evening, surrounded by family, according to a Tuesday news release from the court. He was 68.

“Over the past year, Judge Russo displayed amazing strength while fighting his illness,” Judge Brendan Sheehan is quoted in the release. “Judge Michael Russo was tenacious in his efforts to overcome his medical challenges and return to the courtroom. He felt it was an honor to do the work of the community that we are proud to serve each day.”

Judge Russo spent 20 years on the common pleas court bench and presided over “many notable cases,” according to the release, including the case against Ariel Castro, who in 2013 received a life sentence in the kidnappings of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

Judge Russo earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Dallas and his Master’s degree from Old Dominion University. He was a “proud graduate” of the Cleveland State University College of Law.

His legal career started at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. He practiced privately with Ulmer & Berne LLP before being elected to the bench in 2002.

“I ask that you send your thoughts and prayers to Judge Michael Russo’s family during this time,” Judge Sheehan said.