Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Does Independence Mean to You?

Our country celebrates its 238th birthday tomorrow. The Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, but the official document wasn’t ready until two days later. So, we celebrate our independence on July 4.

The U.S. Courts put together a great video in which citizens, attorneys, and federal judges from across the country reflect on what independence means, and how the U.S. courts protect their freedoms. The different perspectives are very interesting.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Addressing an Epidemic

Back in 1985 when I first became a judge and served in the Toledo Municipal Court, we had few drug cases other than marijuana. But over the next 20 years, we saw drugs of choice change from those of powder and crack cocaine to Oxycontin. Today, we are faced with an epidemic that takes the lives of hundreds of Ohioans each year – opiate abuse involving prescription pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin.

On June 30, more than 800 of Ohio’s judges and others concerned about the impact this epidemic has on their courts and in their communities came to Columbus for the Ohio Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor helped to open the one-day event that explained the consequences of addiction and offered information on promising judicial practices leading to new methods of treatment for offenders. Each team of the 83 counties represented returned to their communities with a plan to find specific solutions.

Many courts have begun to address this serious problem by using drug courts, which bring together court and treatment personnel to work collaboratively in assisting defendants with their addiction issues by treatment instead of jail or prison. The drug courts are seeing results with reduced recidivism and improved treatment for drug offenders, and with measurable cost savings. Court News Ohio recently visited the drug court at Fairfield County Municipal Court. You can watch the video here:

There’s still much to be done to stop the alarming trend of illegal drug use and death due to opiates. The actions that will be taken as a result of the Ohio Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction are steps in the right direction.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Furry Friend Works in Court

A new, furry employee is working in an Ohio court. Camry is a facility dog walking the halls in Marion County Family Court. He’s been with the court for a month but only since last week has he been in an actual courtroom. Camry helps defuse stress for children and even adults when they come to court.

Camry is the first of his kind as he was placed with a courthouse. Typically facility dogs who work in a courtroom setting are placed with a prosecutor’s office or with a victim advocacy group. There are currently 60 facility dogs nationwide in 32 states. Three of those dogs are in Ohio. Joining Camry is Avery with the Summit County prosecutor’s office and Nanook with Michael’s House in Greene County.
Any four-legged friend that helps children in the courtroom receives a blue-ribbon from me – especially one who knows 40 commands.

Click below to watch Camry’s story.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Schools and Teachers Needed for iCivics Pilot Project

Do you want to help students this summer learn more about citizenship? iCivics needs your help!

iCivics is working in conjunction with GlassLab and Filament Games to upgrade a popular game called Argument Wars. Middle and high school students and teachers are needed to improve the learning that occurs within the game’s cases.

iCivics is looking for 6th through12th grade students to play four games and then complete a short online survey. Their teachers – you! – would be volunteering on June 16 through July 3 to supervise the students testing out the new version of Argument Wars and provide feedback from what they also learned from the game. All pilot testing takes place online.

Contact Alison Atwater at by June 6 to learn more about this terrific program.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Celebrating A Civil Rights Landmark

It has been 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education, the case in which the doctrine of “separate but equal” was finally struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The United States Courts website has compiled a list of materials for teachers who wish to study this landmark case.
The resources include:
1.     A prepared script for readers to reenact the case – participants hold their own copy of the script and read their respective parts but do not memorize their lines. The emphasis is on comprehension and student-centered learning.
2.     The history of Brown v. Board of Education – teacher materials include a video of a young Thurgood Marshall from the site, Teachers Domain.
3.     Profile of Justice Thurgood Marshall – a summary of his early life, education, and legal career.

Teachers may download an activity package with recommendations on how to use the material.   

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Cultural Exchange

On April 29, I had an enjoyable dinner with seven Libyan judges who had spent the day in Columbus, touring the local courts and observing oral arguments at our Supreme Court. The judges came to Ohio as part of a three-week visit sponsored by the government of Libya to learn about the American system of justice. Following their professional training program, these judicial delegates will return to Libya with new ideas based on their experiences abroad.

At the dinner, I discovered that this is a time of great promise for Libyans. The State of Libya is located in northern Africa and has a population of more than 6 million. Since 2011, with the death of Muammar Gaddafi and his regime, Libya has been governed by a temporary constitution and is undergoing political reconstruction and reform. The judges told me that the new members of the commission charged with drafting the consitution had recently been announced and that they were eager for the completion of its work. The document will be put to a referendum when a new constitution is completed. The people of Libya will have a say.

Justice Lanzinger with Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Libyan delegates and guests

The Libyan judges join a special group of visitors. The Ohio Supreme Court has worked with lawyers, judges, legislators, and government officials from other countries to help develop independent judiciaries and train judges for more than 20 years. I, myself, was part of a delegation to Ukraine in 1995, and we have also had visitors from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Serbia. The personal contact between judges of different cultures cannot be overestimated, and I am happy to have been part of the conversation with our colleagues from Libya.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Video Explores Art and Architecture of Supreme Court Building

Even if you haven't been able to visit the building that houses the Supreme Court yet, here's your chance to take a visual tour and explore its exquisite art and architecture. This segment comes from WOSU-TV's "Broad and High" program. The full episode will air at 5 p.m. on Sunday.