Monday, September 26, 2016

New Graphic Novels Available

Calling all Ohio social studies teachers—the Ohio Supreme Court is providing Ohio educators with a series of graphic novels, “Justice Case Files,” that may be used in civic education. The series includes six novels that may be used individually or as a set:
·        Case File 1:  The Case of Internet Piracy

·        Case File 2: The Case of Stolen Identity

·        Case File 3:  The Case of Jury Duty

·        Case File 4:  The Case of the Broken Controller

·        Case File 5:  The Case of the Cyberbully and

·        Case File 6:  The Case of No Pets Allowed

These illustrated stories take up cases involving young adults, and teach students about the role of the courts, the protections of the U.S. Constitution, and the importance of the rule of law.   For example, Case File 3 follows a new high school graduate’s experience as a juror, Case File 5 describes a young girl’s action in juvenile court for cyber-bullying, and Case File 6 presents the landlord-tenant problem of an immigrant family.   Created through the National Center for State Courts, the short graphic novels present issues vividly for students. 

As Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor says in the introduction:

By reading these graphic novels, you are learning some of the most important things that any American learns: how your government works, how you can protect your rights, and how important it is that you become an active and engaged citizen.

The Supreme Court of Ohio will make these novels available to all educators who request them.  The Court is developing lesson plans to show how the novels align with Ohio’s curriculum standards.  The novels and lesson plans are provided to educators free of charge.   We are also seeking volunteers from the bench and bar to visit in classrooms using the materials.
To receive copies, or more information, please contact Pierce Reed at or in Chief Justice O’Connor’s chambers at

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Poetry, Literature, and Justice for All

Poetry, literature, and law may not seem like they go hand-in-hand, but printed words can actually help ease judges’ stress from their day jobs as well as improve their work/life balance.

Last year I taught a webcast for the National Judicial College called “Poetry as Judicial Medicine.” Poetry can provide a source of inspiration and comfort to the day-to-day routines we have on the bench. It may also involve judges being more empathetic and better serve those who come before them in court.

One of my favorite poems is from Billy Collins, about a teacher talking about students:


Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

What poetry “really means” may be something I discuss with my judges next week, when, for the seventh time at the NJC in Ashland, Oregon, I’ll be presenting “Law and Ethics: A Novel Approach.”

This program is an innovative method of considering judicial ethics by using a variety of literary forms. The curriculum is designed to allow judges to discuss and analyze their own life experiences with respect to that of works of literature. While in Ashland, we will be attending several plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and discussing ethical dilemmas posed within the plays and relate them to the judiciary.

As a former English teacher, I’ve always had a love of reading and writing, but I wasn’t too sure about poetry. But poetry is much more than rhyme, rhythm, meter, and metaphor. The feelings that I had before that “poetry makes no sense,” “it has no value,” “I don’t have time to read it,” have changed.

Judges are legal readers and writers; words are their stock-in-trade. They must interpret ambiguous statutes and contracts filled with tedious legal clich├ęs.

It’s too easy to be so finely focused on legal issues that the world is seen only through the limited abstract lens of the law. If nuance, the messy irresolution of life and all of its feelings are forgotten, judges may give up too much and forget how to be human.

My work as a judge for more than 31 years now gives me a different perspective. Poetry is fresh and opens up the mind to experiences in a new way, leading judges to become more empathetic and better able to serve others.

And I see all aspects of literature as an intellectual way to show how the judicial system and the written word can join to bring comfort to those who sit on the bench, while also encouraging the highest ethical behavior.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Happy 40th Birthday, Ohio Judicial College!

This July, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ohio Judicial College. Since 1976, the Judicial College has been instrumental in educating nearly 205,000 people within the Buckeye state through more than 2,350 courses.
Like its counterpart, the National Judicial College, the Ohio Judicial College provides continuing legal and professional education to judges, magistrates, and non-judicial court personnel. All Ohio judges must complete 40 hours of continuing legal education every two years – 10 of those through Ohio Judicial College instruction, which makes the college the primary teaching resource for the nearly 1,200 judges and 800 magistrates throughout our state.
As a teacher for nearly five years before joining the legal profession and eventually becoming a judge and then a justice, I’ve continued to teach judges and lawyers at a national and state level. I was a board member of the Ohio Judicial College for seven years and served as its chair in 2000-2001. I can tell you that the college works exceptionally well and has a fine reputation. Staff takes their duties very seriously and courses are designed to keep the skills of those in the judicial field at a high level.
Ohioans can be sure that its Judicial College has served the public over the last 40 years by educating those who must ensure competent performance of the entire judicial system. And, of course, the public should expect no less from those who run the courts. Happy Birthday, Ohio Judicial College – and many, many more!
You can learn more about the history of the Ohio Judicial College by reading this month’s issue of CNO Review.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Law Day Theme – Miranda: More than Words

In 1966, in the 5-4 decision of Miranda v. Arizona, the Warren Court fleshed out the Fifth Amendment by requiring warnings to be given before a defendant in custody could be questioned: 

“You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law, you have the right to an attorney, and that if you can’t afford one a lawyer will be appointed for you before questioning.”

Miranda is still vital. In the 12 years that I’ve been on the Ohio Supreme Court, we’ve cited Miranda over 275 times. The case comes up whenever statements have been made in a criminal case or someone’s questioned in custody without counsel. Judges see it in motions to suppress.
For the Ohio Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement, read State v. Barker, released on April 28, 2016. Just because a juvenile was videotaped, we couldn’t say his confession was automatically voluntary. We held this statutory presumption to be unconstitutional and said that the prosecution must always prove a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver before allowing a statement into evidence.
I would like to broaden the Law Day Theme to include another protection of words. Miranda is based on the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, meaning the government can’t force speech. Conversely the government usually can’t shut us up, either. The First Amendment doesn’t allow government to squelch the language of a speaker, no matter how coarse, offensive, or repulsive.
The right is relevant during this campaign season. Americans have never been polite political animals. Insults aren’t new. The raw nerves of democracy have been jangling away years ago. 
Campaigns of 19th Century
In 1800, John Adams challenged by his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, was called a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." Jefferson was called a “weakling, atheist, libertine, and coward” and there were rumors of his long-term liaison with Sally Hemings.
John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson faced off twice with the first election considered by Jackson’s followers to be a “corrupt bargain” because candidate Henry Clay threw his support to Adams in exchange for the position of Secretary of State.
Their second race in 1828 was ugly. A newspaper wrote “General Jackson’s mother was a common prostitute, brought to this country by British soldiers!” Rumors swirled that Jackson’s wife Rachael was a bigamist because her divorce had not gone through when she married Jackson. Jackson was accused of adultery and living in sin. Adams was labelled a pimp, and it was said his success in Russia was a result of his providing the Czar with the services of an America woman. He was also accused of gambling in the White House. 
Jackson won, but his wife died shortly before his inauguration. Denied a second term, Adams later became a congressman and successfully defended 39 African captives in the famous Amistad case.
In 1884, Grover Cleveland dealt with the revelation that he had fathered a son out of wedlock, that the child had gone to an orphanage, and that the mother had been driven into an asylum. Even though Cleveland eventually admitted his “illicit connection” he denied fatherhood – he said he was only doing his duty in finding a home for the child and giving him his name.
Current Speech Protection
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote “the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” Is the “marketplace of ideas” still a valid idea?
If so, unfortunately, some of the internet’s bread is very stale and some twitter fruit is very rotten. Just look at internet comments – common civility is gone.   Ugly thoughts that may have been hidden away once now have permission to be belched out in public. And those who disagree are crudely insulted and demonized.
When did it happen that anger, grievance, and resentment of others would drown out rational discussion?
The anti-intellectual soundbite needs to be challenged. So does the idea that any opinion, no matter how outright wrong, is just as valid as a considered judgment based in fact. And as the U.S. Supreme Court said in Citizens United, “Government can’t police the line between truth and falsity and between valuable speech and drivel.” Since government can’t distinguish based on content of political speech, who can change the tenor of discourse? Isn’t it our duty to try to encourage free exchange of ideas uninhibited by hate or rage?
We hear “It’s a free country,” and thank God that’s so. Law Day is a time to celebrate protection of “more than words” – the Miranda decision protects silence of one while in custody and the First Amendment protects our ability to speak.  


Friday, April 29, 2016

NOTICE: Free Online Drug Court Training for Court Professionals

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals released a new online course titled “Educating Drug Courts on Medication Assisted Treatment.”

The free course is funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. It’s designed to give drug and other treatment courts the tools they need to ensure best practices related to medication assisted treatment. The course includes understanding what this treatment is, how it can be used, and its legal ramifications.

The online course is timely as courts across the country will be celebrating National Drug Court Month, which begins on May 1. According to the Association of Drug Court Professionals, there are more than 2,900 drug courts across the nation serving about 150,000 individuals each year.

These courts are crucial to criminal justice reform and are often the most effective strategy to reduce substance abuse, crime, and repeat offenses.

Our current opioid crisis highlights the need for access to new and creative types of treatment of drug addiction. Drug and other treatment courts must ensure every participant has access to the full range of evidence-based treatment when it is determined to be medically needed.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Thinking of International Cooperation

Just this week, a judge and nine lawyers from Afghanistan were able to watch oral arguments in four cases heard by the Ohio Supreme Court in the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center. Afterward, the group spent time with Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor discussing the differences between the U.S. and Afghan court systems.

Both the Ohio Judicial College and National Judicial College have sponsored programs that allow judges from the United States to periodically receive judges and attorneys from other countries and sponsor them in training. Judges from Ukraine, Russia, Libya, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Serbia have toured the nation’s court system, including here in Ohio and have marveled at our Supreme Court building. 

Visits have varied and have included more than judges. For example, members of the China International Economic Trade and Arbitration Commission learned about dispute resolution during a visit to Ohio in 2007. A 2009 Korean delegation studied the administration and use of jury trials. The Serbian delegation in 2012 learned about asset forfeiture, and Franklin County judges presented a program on commercial dockets to a Turkmenistan group. 

Twice in 1995, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Russia and Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union to teach programs designed to introduce the U.S. legal system and encourage judicial independence. Many students were fascinated to hear that people believed in the rule of law and that American judges had no armies to enforce their opinions. They were surprised that we didn’t have to call party bosses to decide how to rule in a particular case. They were also amazed that someone could actually sue the government. 

So many times we take our system of law for granted. During this primary season, when politics seems to expose the rawer nerves of democracy, it’s not a bad idea to remember that when we are viewed from other places, we appear to be very fortunate and that the sharing of ideas benefits all of us.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Judicial Seats on March Primary Election Ballot

One week from today, Ohioans will have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote as they go to the polls on Tuesday, March 15 for the primary election.

In a previous post, I’ve mentioned Judicial Votes Count and the many resources available on the website for voters who’d like to learn more about the candidates for judge and justice. The website includes biographical information about the judicial candidates, including the candidates’ reasons for wanting to serve on the bench.

There are 145 judicial races on next week’s primary ballot, including three on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Twenty-seven court of appeals seats are also up for election this year. Before being elected as a Supreme Court justice, I served as a judge on the Sixth District Court of Appeals, as well as in common pleas and municipal court. I was asked to provide some insight in to the appeals court process in a video produced for the Judicial Votes Count website. That video, along with videos about the Supreme Court and common pleas courts, help voters understand the functions of each court.

Judges play an important role in our society by making decisions that affect our lives every day and in countless ways. Become more informed about these important offices by visiting Then, please vote!