Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holding Court in Mansfield

Yesterday the Ohio Supreme Court traveled to Mansfield as part of our Off-Site Court Program. Twice a year we travel across the state and hear cases in a county courthouse or at a school.

More than 500 students from 11 schools in Richland County heard one of three oral arguments at Mansfield Senior High School. You can watch a video of the students’ experience here.

But before you click the video and see the process that allows the justices to hold an official court session outside of Columbus, you may be interested in a bit of history.

In the court’s very early days, there were only 3 Supreme Court “judges” instead of 7 justices.  And there was no separate courthouse in which to hear cases. Instead, the judges rode throughout the state on horseback. They called this travel “riding the circuit.” The judges carried law books along with clothing in their saddlebags, and they stayed overnight in homes of local residents when they travelled to a county. 

By 1834, Supreme Court judges rode more than 2,000 miles each year and covered 72 counties across the state. Those pioneer judges really needed an automobile!

Fast forward more than 100 years, and you now see the court again going out to Ohioans. I enjoy our twice-a-year journey because the Off-Site Court Program gives students a chance to see us in action and directly experience oral arguments.  And as a 21st century justice, I’m glad we don’t spend those hours on horseback.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Not Just Miss Manners! The Civility Project

Last month my post talked about the new Courtroom to Classroom project sponsored by the Ohio Supreme Court. Today, I’m happy to mention another program.

The Middle School Civility Project is a package of seven lessons available to middle school teachers with embedded links and references.  And these civility lessons are more than about etiquette.

In these times of increased social media and less face-to-face-contact, students need to see that it is important to respect and value their peers and act civilly toward others, particularly when disagreements arise. When middle school students don’t know how to react to conflict or pressure from their classmates, teachers, and parents, they may cope by disruptive behavior and bullying.

In an effort to address civility and teach students how to avoid patterns of behavior that harm others, OCLRE developed new curriculum in a series of activities designed to help students become aware of their rights and responsibilities and respond to conflict with others through mediation. Students are also shown how to start a service learning project in their schools.

The civility project lessons include:

·         What Is Civility?
·         Acts of Civility Around School
·         Citizens’ Rights and Responsibilities
·         Communication and Conflict Resolution

It’s hoped that early lessons about respect for others and the appropriate ways of handling disputes might counteract the development of later criminal behavior. These lessons are intended to help teachers assist their young students in becoming better citizens.

The curriculum can be used in the classroom or as a project for OCLRE’s Youth for Justice program. It is supported by The Thomas J. Moyer Legacy Committee of the Ohio State Bar Association and funded by the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Courtroom to Classroom – Our New Program

Flash for all teachers! The Ohio Supreme Court has just started a new civic education program. Courtroom to Classroom allows students to watch live-streaming video of oral arguments and have local attorneys help them learn more about the judicial system through a real Supreme Court case.

Students from Westland High School in Galloway and London High School were the first to participate.

Last week, two local lawyers met the students in each school to discuss Arlie Risner v. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, a case that was argued on Wednesday.

We justices were asked to decide whether Ohio law allows the Department of Natural Resources to receive money restitution for the value of a deer from a hunter who illegally killed it when the hunter was fined and the ODNR already had possession of the deer’s remains.

After watching the oral arguments online in their classrooms, the attorneys who had prepared the students debriefed them and encouraged them to ask questions about the proceedings they had observed.

This program is a great companion to our Off-Site Court Program where the justices travel outside Columbus twice a year to hear oral arguments. Students from the counties we visit watch our oral arguments live either in their high schools or at the county courthouse.  They then can talk to the attorneys who just argued before the court.

With Courtroom to Classroom, students can stay in class yet still benefit from watching live arguments. There is no need to arrange the transportation that is often a financial barrier in bringing students to the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.
So, teachers – if you think your school would be interested in participating in Courtroom to Classroom, contact or 614-387-9223 for more information.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Our Time to Honor Black History

February is Black History Month – a time when we honor African Americans and remember important events in our history.

United States Courts created a video profile of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery P. Hopkins of Cincinnati.

Judge Hopkins explains how he and his family moved to Ohio after his uncle was murdered by a sheriff in Georgia and what it was like living in the segregated south.

Click below to hear Judge Hopkin’s inspiring story, and his path to the federal district court bench. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Friendly Competition

Competition. The word conjures up sports, doesn't it? The pride of winning, or, the sadness of defeat. As a former teacher, I know that competition based on more than physical skills can be just as intense for high school students. Case in point: the students who participated in this year’s We the People competition.

High school students from all over the state who spent months pouring over our country’s founding documents, news articles, and text books, came to the Ohio Statehouse on January 23 ready to demonstrate their comprehension of constitutional issues to a panel of judges. They were prepared, poised, and professional in their presentations and during the follow-up questions from the judges.

I was especially glad to see students from the Law and Leadership Institute (LLI) program participating in We the People for the first time. LLI was started by the Ohio Supreme Court to prepare students from underserved communities for post-secondary and professional success.

Congratulations to all the students – and their teachers – for a great day of competition!

You can see more about the competition and what’s next for the winning team in this video from Court News Ohio.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An Oath of Office

A new year brings new leadership and January has been a month of investitures with several state leaders taking their oaths of office!

Supreme Court Justices Judith L. French and Sharon L. Kennedy took their oaths of office during a traditional swearing-in ceremony last week in the courtroom of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.

Justice Sharon Kennedy
Justice Judith French

And on Jan. 12, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor administered the oaths to Gov. John Kasich, who started his second term at midnight, and to Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor in the Senate chambers of the Statehouse. Attorney General Mike DeWine was sworn in on Jan. 11. Secretary of State Jon Husted renewed his oath in the chambers of the House of Representatives on Jan. 12. Auditor Dave Yost was sworn in on Jan. 12 in the Statehouse atrium, and Treasurer Josh Mandel began his second term on Jan. 12 with a swearing-in ceremony at the Statehouse rotunda. Justice Kennedy returned the favor as she helped swear-in some lawmakers on Jan. 5 as they became part of the 131st General Assembly.

Taking an oath is an important part of history. It reminds us that we have to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution, and it binds us to perform our duties in good faith.

You may not know this, but a newly elected or appointed judge must take the oath of office before entering judicial office, and an incumbent judge must take the oath of office before the commencement of each term of office.

When we take the judicial oath, we recite:

“I, ___(name)___do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Ohio, will administer justice without respect to persons, and will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me
as _____(type of judge)____,according to the best of my ability and understanding.”

Here’s to a new year of Ohio leadership and to its top officials.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Courts and a Legacy in the Making

On Monday, the country celebrates a great man who helped lead the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for equal rights with peaceful marches and powerful speeches. But there were other fights during this time – those that were settled in the courts and judicial system.

The United States Courts examines how the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and a federal judge intertwined during the civil rights movement.
Photo courtesy of the United States Courts