Monday, June 29, 2015

A Focus on Families and Addiction

Ohio has 110 juvenile court judges who preside over some of the hardest decisions a judge has to make – those in cases of child abuse and neglect.

Many families who come before the judges are there because of problems that stem from addiction.

Juvenile court judges from 56 Ohio counties joined substance abuse treatment providers, child welfare advocates, and other community partners recently at a one-day symposium to discuss how parents and children in their communities are affected by addiction.

The Ohio Supreme Court, along with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, assembled a group of community partners for the 2015 Judicial Symposium on Addiction and Child Welfare on June 23.

Each county team developed action plans to ensure that families receive treatment intervention and the judicial oversight, and support they need to continue their recovery.

Last year, common pleas court judges participated in a similar event.

A new video, “Let’s Treat it Together,” introduces an explanation of the science of addiction and the response of courts who are addressing a solution. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor explains in the video how we all must work together on this problem. Let’s all join the chief justice in that call for action. The future of our children is at stake.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Moot Court vs. Mock Trial – What’s the Difference?

Mock trial, moot court – two competitions and two high-school-team winners. Do you know the difference between these two programs?

Mock Trial

A “mock” trial means a trial acted out by students as if they were trying a case before a judge or jury. Students play all parts in the trial as attorneys, clients, and witnesses. Opening statements, direct and cross examination, and closing arguments are all part of the mock trial.
In March, 300 high school students from 32 teams competed in a three-day mock trial event. At the 32nd Annual High School Mock Trial Competition, Westerville North High School defeated Ashland High School. Westerville North, by the way, continued in the competition to place 10th at the National High School Mock Trial Championship earlier this month. Congratulations, Westerville North!
Moot Court
The word moot means “in dispute,” and this program differs from portrayal of a trial because it allows students to act as attorneys for an appeal.
The moot court experience lets students handle an appeal of a simulated case that has already been tried. A losing party to a case always has the right to appeal to one of the 12 appellate courts in Ohio, and a panel of three judges will make a decision based on the written papers (briefs) and the oral arguments of the attorneys. There are no witnesses, just the attorneys arguing their legal positions to the judges. 
The student-lawyers in moot court argue for the appellant (who wants reversal) or the appellee (who wants the decision affirmed.) Springfield High School students recently won the second annual Moot Court Competition where more than 100 students representing 16 high schools across Ohio appeared before a panel of judges and lawyers and argued their cases as appellate attorneys.  Hooray, Springfield!
The Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE) sponsors these programs and hosts the civic competitions for students.  Teachers should know that younger students can benefit from studying the court system as well. OCLRE has started hosting a middle school mock trial showcase where students learn about the roles of judges, attorneys, and witnesses from classic books read in school when they act out the characters in a legal setting.
The Ohio Supreme Court supports OCLRE along with the ACLU of Ohio Foundation, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and the Ohio State Bar Association.


Friday, May 15, 2015

iCivics Website Unveiled

Former senator and astronaut John Glenn and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor teamed up to launch iCivics Ohio and just unveiled a new website designed to bring students up to speed on civic education.

Glenn and Justice O’Connor are concerned with lack of knowledge students have about government and citizenship. The website makes sure civic education isn’t an afterthought for schools and their students.
Ohio students will have the opportunity to access digital civic-education lesson plans made specifically for teachers.

As you may know, I’m an iCivics representative for the state of Ohio, so this program is very near and dear to my heart.
Please click HERE to read more about the website. And leave a comment below if you have any questions about the program.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What is a Crime?

Every state has its own answer.  In Ohio, a crime is defined as specific conduct that is subject to punishment either as a felony or misdemeanor – either for doing something forbidden (such as murder or theft) or for not doing something required (such as failing to register as a sex offender).

People are expected to know what a crime is so they know how society expects them to behave. Generally, crimes in Ohio are set forth as laws – called “statutes” in Title 29 of the Ohio Revised Code – but these statutes are not always easy to read and understand. 

The 130th General Assembly recognized this and created the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, a special 24-member committee to work on a comprehensive plan for revising criminal laws. Judge Fred Pepple of Auglaize County Common Pleas has been elected Chair and Tim Young of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office as Vice-Chair. Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor appointed me to be a member of this committee.
On May 7, 2015, the committee held its first meeting.  Am. Sub. H.B. 483 instructs us to study current criminal statutes  and  recommend Ohio’s Criminal Code with the goal of “enhancing public safety and the administration of criminal justice.”  We are to complete our work by August 2016.  It is a big and important project, and if the job is done well, changes will be recommended to make our criminal laws fairer and simpler to read and understand.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Day to Celebrate the Rule of Law

Established in 1958 by President Dwight Eisenhower, Law Day is a time to celebrate the rule of law. Although it is officially celebrated on May 1, several courts and bar associations host Law Day events throughout the month. Two of my colleagues, Justices Judith French and William O’Neill, plan to travel across the Buckeye state this month to participate in Law Day festivities.

This year also marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta – the Great Charter. Written in 1215, the Magna Carta contains the statement that no one person is above the law. This historic document is considered by some to be of primary importance because it is the basis for the concept of the rule of law.
Magna Carta - 1215

Speaking of the rule of law – the 2015 Ohio State Bar Association Convention is happening right now in Sandusky. From Wednesday until Friday of this week, lawyers and judges from across the state are meeting to confer and study and share best legal practices. This year the main theme of the conference is “Access to Justice.”  What better way to ensure that the rule of law continues to protect all citizens than to provide the means for all to obtain the legal assistance they need.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

An Inspiring Trip

I recently visited with students from the Jones Leadership Academy in my hometown of Toledo to talk about law and leadership. At the invitation of local attorney Pariss Coleman, I had a wonderful time meeting with the school’s principal, Dr. Ward Barnett, and assistant principal, Antonio Davis as well as students in the Jones Leadership Law Program and students from the school’s chess club, who recently received tournament trophies.

Class picture.

We talked about the Five Secrets of Success and the importance of education. These 7th through 9th-grade students are no strangers to good work and perseverance, for they study hard at Jones Leadership Academy. The school’s educators stress community service and leadership and as someone who continues to teach, I appreciate their professionalism and their dedication to the students.  
Justice Lanzinger meets with students,
teacher Mr. Nathan Shrider, Principal Dr. Ward
Barnett, Assistant Principal Antonio Davis,
and attorney Pariss Coleman.
Thank you to everyone at the event for giving me the chance to meet with future leaders in our community.   

Justice Lanzinger with Jones Leadership
Chess Club members Anthony King,
Brictorria Moccabee, and Whitney Hughes.
Justice Lanzinger with gavel given
by the Jones Leadership Chess Club 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Another Ohio Appellate Court Offers Video Access

You may know that we at the Ohio Supreme Court have streamed, recorded and archived our oral arguments since March 2004. Our website provides the links to updated materials.

Now the Ninth District Court of Appeals, based in Akron, has decided to begin posting its own oral arguments on YouTube. The Ninth District becomes the first of the 12 appellate courts in Ohio to use this platform for reaching the public.

Many people do not understand the appellate process. TV does not offer shows about courts of appeals, maybe because the work doesn’t seem dramatic. There are no witnesses, no evidence – just arguments presented to a panel of three judges about why a trial decision should be reversed or upheld.

The decisions by our appellate courts announce the law that must be followed in other cases within the district. Sometimes, if the district court decisions conflict, a case may need to be settled by our court. All the more reason that the courtroom door be open for public understanding of this important part of the legal process.

The U.S. Supreme Court so far has refused to allow cameras in the courtroom. As more state courts allow the public to see judges in action, perhaps the highest court in the nation will change its position and do the same.