Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Middle school video contest takes on inappropriate texts, cyber bullying

Stories about the consequences of sexting and cyber bullying by teenagers and pre-teens appear in the media every day. To raise awareness about the issue, the 2009 Fellows Class of the Ohio State Bar Foundation created a statewide video contest called B4U Send.

The contest challenges Ohio teachers to team with students in grades six, seven and eight to create a short public-service video that addresses the emotional, legal and social consequences of these behaviors. Details and information – including a 46-page Ohio teachers’ benchmark guide – can be found here:

The winning entry will be produced professionally and distributed to all Ohio middle schools during Law Week as a public service announcement. Good luck!

Friday, October 8, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Ohio case

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to hear an Ohio case about police searching data stored in a cell phone. While the Supreme Court of Ohio is the court of last resort for state law, sometimes our court’s decisions are appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, especially when they concern federal constitutional rights.

It’s not uncommon for the U.S. Supreme Court to decline to hear a case. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court receives about 10,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each year. The Court grants and hears oral argument in about 75 to 80 cases. Those are difficult numbers to overcome to be sure.

As a comparison, our state Supreme Court receives about 2,000 requests each year to review decisions of Ohio’s appeals courts. Out of all those requests, we typically agree to hear arguments and decide about 150 cases per year. After reading these statistics, you can see why we encourage lawyers to make a compelling case to us as to why we should hear their case.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Harvard recognizes Supreme Court civic education program

We already knew our civic education program was a worthwhile endeavor, now Harvard University thinks so too. The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government selected 173 programs nationwide for its inaugural Bright Ideas program as “creative government initiatives.”

Here’s what the winning application says: “The Supreme Court of Ohio Civic Education Program is dedicated to informing citizens about the judiciary, an often misunderstood branch of government, with the aim of building trust through knowledge and understanding. The initiative employs many and varied approaches including off-site court, a visitor education center, public lectures, and artwork.”

Please don’t let another school year go by without visiting our beautiful building and learning how the judicial system affects your life. You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Constitution Day Theme Centers on Jury Service

With many Ohio schools back in session, civics teachers may be interested in an off-the-shelf resource offered by the United States Courts Web site.

In celebration of Constitution Day on Sept. 17, this year’s theme centers on jury service, an obligation and privilege of American citizens. According to the Web site, schools that receive public funds are required by federal law to provide education about the Constitution on that day.

The lesson plan offers jury service resources, a podcast from students and background information about serving on a jury. Click here to access the site. Have fun learning about what it means to serve on a jury and celebrating the 223rd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Court offers new learning tool on Fourth Amendment

Civics teachers and students may be interested in a new learning tool announced by the Supreme Court of Ohio this week.

The Visitor Education Center is offering a lesson plan based on a recent court decision that requires police to obtain a warrant to search cell phones. The plan provides teachers and students with the tools to study, consider and discuss a contemporary case focusing on the Fourth Amendment.

The activity is designed for middle and high school students who likely will appreciate the details of the case involving cell phones and privacy. Teachers may find the lesson both useful and timely for the Constitution Day, Sept. 17. It is posted on the Supreme Court’s web site here:

The Court in December 2009 ruled the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures requires police to obtain a warrant before conducting a search of a suspect’s cell phone. I wrote the Court’s 4-3 majority opinion. The decision generated considerable national comment as this was the first such ruling from a state supreme court.

The lesson plan features a link to the video stream of the oral arguments before the Court. It also includes:
• Wording of the Fourth Amendment and related terms
• Basics of search warrants
• Background information about the case
• A summary of the legal issues and the Court’s decision
• Suggestions for classroom discussion and follow-up activities.

The exercise aligns with seven content standards in the high school American Government syllabus recently adopted by the State Board of Education.

The Civic Education office has presented the activity to teachers and students for comment and suggestions since March. It will be part of an on-going series called “Extra Credit” posted on the Court’s web site.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Three Women Soon to Serve on U.S. Supreme Court

The news that Solicitor General Elena Kagan was confirmed today as the fourth woman justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court is a milestone. Back in 1981, President Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor as the first, and the lone female justice. Now, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Kagan together will make up a third of the Supreme Court this fall.

Times have changed since women generally were steered into becoming teachers, secretaries, or nurses if they wished to work outside their homes. Yet even then some women did study law, becoming attorneys and judges. It happened here in Ohio.

A short history lesson about women Justices on the Ohio Supreme Court since 1803.

Florence E. Allen was the first woman on the Supreme Court of Ohio and served from 1923 to 1934. She was named a “Great Ohioan” in January by the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board and the Capitol Square Foundation because of her many “firsts”: the first woman elected to a U.S. court of last resort, the first woman elected to a judicial office in Ohio, the first woman assistant county prosecutor in the United States, and the first woman appointed to a federal appeals court judgeship.

After Justice Allen left the Court in 1934, nearly 50 years passed before another woman, Blanche Krupansky became a justice, serving from 1981 to 1983. A short six years later, on Jan. 2, 1989, Alice Robie Resnick became the third woman to serve on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Four more women have taken their seats since then. Justice Deborah L. Cook (1995), Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton (1996), and Justice Maureen O’Connor (2002) joined Justice Resnick to create the first of two female majorities on the Court. I became the seventh woman and 150th Justice when I took office in 2004 after serving on the other three court levels.

To date, the seven women Justices of the 152 Justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio still represent only 5 percent, a small minority of those who have served on the high court in Ohio’s 207-year history. But overall, our record still beats that of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Cool Website for Fun and Learning

At this point in the summer it’s fairly common for kids to admit to their parents that they’re bored. Well, with school still a month away how about a little learning and a little fun mixed together?

An online, interactive Web site ( that teaches middle school students about civics includes a wealth of information for teachers and students about the three branches of government. While teachers will enjoy the lesson plans, I’m betting the students will be more interested in the online games by casting the deciding vote in a case as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, acting as president, or crafting laws as a member of Congress.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor started the national initiative, and I’m pleased to serve as Ohio’s spokesperson and adviser.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Taking Our Show on the Road

As part of a program to show how the Supreme Court of Ohio operates, today the Supreme Court announced that it will conduct an official session at Ohio Northern University on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Normally, we hear oral arguments in Columbus, but twice a year we visit cities outside the capital to give hundreds of students the chance to attend and see for themselves the proceedings of the Supreme Court and to be able to talk to justices, attorneys and court staff.

The upcoming Ada visit is part of our semiannual Off-Site Court Program started in 1987 and this will be the 60th time we have travelled from Columbus.

I always enjoy visiting different parts of the state and experiencing the camaraderie of the legal communities in other cities. The teachers and attorneys who prepare students for this event do such a good job – we always have such thoughtful questions to answer. So, I’m looking forward to being with those of you who will be with us on Sept. 29. See you there!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Law and Leadership World Tour Complete

After being in 5 classes and 3 cities I can attest to the fact that the Law and Leadership program is really working. (I stopped by the Toledo site today.)  I was so impressed with the dedication of the teachers and law students involved.
The students were giving up some fine weather to get dressed up very well, and to study and learn instead of the usual vacation relaxing. I fielded some good questions about how the courts work, the place of judges in the system and the importance of attorneys.

As the first one in my family to go to college, I could see myself in their shoes--many of them are also the first in their families to think of college and many of them also would be the first to enter the legal profession if they can make it through the years of school necessary. I'm hoping to see some of them in practice some day--our profession would be much richer as a result.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cleveland Law and Leadership Students Trade Summer Sun for Legal Lessons

Cleveland students are soaking up summer days filled with learning about the law and legal concepts.

Justice Maureen O’Connor and I had the pleasure of joining students enrolled in the Law and Leadership program and serving as guest speakers on Monday. The program seeks to improve diversity in the legal profession by offering promising youth from urban neighborhoods a chance to study law during the summer at an Ohio law school. We visited with students at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

We talked about the challenges of being a Supreme Court Justice and how our state court system operates. We also answered many thoughtful questions from the students. The students should be proud that they were selected to participate. We sure are proud of them. Keep up the good work!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Columbus Law and Leadership Students Know Their Stuff

The calendar says July, but two classes of students were in mid-school year form Thursday learning about the law and legal concepts.

I had the pleasure of joining Columbus students enrolled in the Law and Leadership program and serving as a guest speaker. The program seeks to improve diversity in the legal profession by offering promising youth from urban neighborhoods a chance to study law during the summer at an Ohio law school. I visited with students at Capital University Law School in the morning and students at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in the afternoon.

We spent the time talking about our state court system and what it is like to be a Supreme Court Justice. The students asked plenty of great questions about our state's legal system and the judicial branch. They deserve congratulations on being selected to participate in this wonderful program. Who knows -- if they continue to study hard and finish high school, college and law school, they could be attorneys someday or even judges themselves!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

300 Dedicated Ohio High School Students Spend Summer Studying the Law

As we get into the dog days of summer, there is a group of dedicated young people with an  interest in the law who are forgoing days at the swimming pool for some serious summer studies.

More than 300 students from six Ohio cities started this year's  Law and Leadership Institute on July 6. The Institute is a statewide program that seeks to improve diversity in the legal profession by identifying promising youth from urban neighborhoods and grooming them to be future leaders in the legal profession.

The students study law over the summer at an Ohio law school. Students entering the ninth, 10th and 11th grades are participating this year in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo.

I commend these students on their choice to keep working through the summer, and I hope to bring you updates on their activities here on the Justice Judy Blog. 

The institute began in 2008 in Cleveland and Columbus and expanded to the four additional cities last year. The original sites will house all three grades this summer and involve two law schools in each city while the four expansion cities will have two grades at each city’s law school.

“The whole idea behind this program is to enhance students’ critical thinking, writing and research skills, their analytic ability and to expose students to a professional work environment,” said Carl D. Smallwood, president of the Law and Leadership Institute, LLC. “Many of these students come from underserved communities and from families less aware of the steps necessary to prepare for college admission.”

He said the program is much more than simply “job shadowing,” in that ninth-grade summer students are in class for five weeks concluding with a mock trial; 10th-grade students sit for three weeks of classroom instruction and conclude with a one-week internship at a law firm or corporation; and 11th-grade students take ACT/SAT preparation courses to boost their college readiness, go on campus visits, and are paired with lawyer mentors on a research and writing assignment.

He noted that the program stays with the participating students as they move through high school and next year will grow again to include all four high school grades.

Partners for the 2010 institute include the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Ohio Center for Law Related Education, the Ohio State Bar Association, Ohio’s metropolitan bar associations, city school districts and Ohio’s nine law schools: the University of Akron School of Law, Capital University Law School, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, the University of Dayton School of Law, Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law, The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and the University of Toledo College of Law.

The Law and Leadership Institute is supported, in part, by grants from the Ohio State Bar Foundation and the Law School Admissions Council.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Scavenger Hunt Winner Announced

A real-life "Dora the Explorer," who will enter fifth grade at Waynesville Elementary School in the fall and spends half her year at St. Cyprian's Preparatory School in Highgate, Jamaica, West Indies, is the winner of the Justice Judy Scavenger Hunt Challenge.

Dora was the first student to complete the scavenger hunt by submitting a photo of her local courthouse, naming one of her local judges, telling me in which appellate district she lives, listing the three branches of government, and finding a newspaper story about how the judicial system affected her community.

Congratulations Dora!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Abolitionist Case Presented Dilemma for Judge Swan

Although it draws little fanfare, this time of year marks the anniversary of a dramatic Supreme Court case that tested the conscience of a judge and captured the attention of the nation. It unfolded in May 1859 in the aftermath of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, and foretold of the coming pain of the Civil War.

This is a story worth recalling because of the individuals involved and the issues they faced. The central characters included John Price, a fugitive slave from Kentucky, two abolitionists who defied federal law and Judge Joseph Swan, revered both by the public and colleagues, who ultimately cast the deciding vote.

When Price crossed the river into Ohio in 1856, he made his way to Oberlin, long considered a safe haven for runaway slaves. Still, runaways always remained on the lookout. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed bounty hunters to capture slaves anywhere in the United States and return them to their captors in the South. The law also called for the arrest of those who interfered with a slave capture and required federal marshals to assist in rounding up runaways.

Price enjoyed freedom for almost two years in Oberlin before he was taken by two Southern slave catchers and a federal marshal. Price was held prisoner in a hotel room in nearby Wellington. Word of his abduction quickly spread through the communities and a crowd of more than 350 white and black abolitionists gathered outside the hotel calling for his release. In the tense atmosphere, fueled by chaos, Price escaped and was taken to a safe house to hide. He eventually found true freedom in Canada.

In the wake of the incident 37 abolitionists were arrested and charged with violating the Fugitive Slave Act. Simeon Bushnell and Charles Langston were the first to be tried in federal court in Cleveland. Both men were found guilty.

Lawyers for the two men filed a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court of Ohio. They argued Bushnell and Langston were imprisoned illegally because the fugitive slave law was unconstitutional. In essence, they asked a state court to take extraordinary action and strike down a federal law.

On the morning of May 25, the Supreme Court justices convened their hearing. The rescuers pressed the point that the moment escaped slaves stepped into Ohio, they were free men and women because Ohio did not recognize slavery. Attorneys for the government argued the Fugitive Slave Act was the law of the land that had been upheld by other courts.

Following the hearing, the justices voted: two to uphold the federal conviction and two to release the rescuers, Bushnell and Langston. The decision was up to Chief Judge Swan, widely recognized as a committed abolitionist. The case presented him with a wrenching choice: follow his heart as an opponent of slavery or follow the law he was sworn to uphold.

It was a personal dilemma that he answered in a most personal style in his majority opinion: “If I did it, and were prosecuted , condemned, and imprisoned…and were then permitted to pronounce judgment in my own case, I trust I should have the moral courage to say, before God and the country, as I am now compelled to say, under the solemn duties of a judge, bound by my official oath to sustain the supremacy of the constitution and the law, ‘The prisoner must be remanded.’”

With his vote, Swan refused to overturn the federal law. As a result, the Oberlin rescuers spent almost 90 days in jail. He paid a steep price for his decision. He was denied renomination to the court and he resigned in November.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Take the Justice Judy Scavenger Hunt Challenge

Summer is nearly here, and thoughts turn to the pool and the beach. But, before you go, take this one last assignment: A Judicial Scavenger Hunt. We're asking students who visit the Ohio Judicial Center to take on this challenge as a fun way to learn more about the courts and how they impact our lives.

I was happy to lead a tour of the Ohio Judicial Center with a great group of smart 4th graders from Waynesville Elementary School this week, and I asked them to be the first students to take the Justice Judy Scavenger Hunt Challenge. Will you join them?

I have five items on the list. Find these five items and email me the results at I'll put the name, picture and school of the first student who submits all five answers on the blog.

Here goes:

1) Take or find a photo of your local courthouse.
2) Name one of your local judges.
3) Tell me which appellate district in which you live.
4) List the three branches of government.
5) Find a newspaper story about how the judicial system affected your community.

That's it. Ready, set, go!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Supreme Court Lecture Featured Book About Priest’s Murder in 1921

During the Supreme Court of Ohio’s third Forum on the Law lecture on April 27, an Ohio State University law professor told of how her family’s history and the U.S. history of laws banning interracial marriage led her to write a remarkable book about a 1921 revenge killing of a priest and the resulting trial in Birmingham, Ala.

Sharon Davies, the John C. Elam/Vorys Sater Distinguished Professor of Law at the Moritz College of Law, discussed her book “Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race and Religion in America” before a crowd of 200 people in the Supreme Court courtroom.

Davies explained that she came to write the book after becoming interested in U.S. laws banning interracial marriage and procreation in part because of her own personal story of being the daughter of parents who were forced to travel to New York to be married because their union was still illegal in South Carolina.

“It was not until I was 7 years old that these laws were ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court,” she said. “We were considered the evidence of a crime.”

In the book, Davies recounts how Methodist minister Edwin Stephenson murdered Fr. James Coyle on the front porch of the Catholic rectory in August 1921, shortly after learning Coyle performed the marriage ceremony between Stephenson’s 18-year-old daughter and a Puerto Rican.

Here's the video from the event.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Indian Hill fourth-graders learn about judicial branch

What a joy it was to join six Cincinnati Indian Hill elementary fourth-grade students for a conversation on Skype.

Ari, Cameron, Gracey, Maddie, Tennyson and Tommy asked some good questions about the judicial branch and what it’s like to be a Supreme Court Justice. At the direction of teacher Mark Richardson, the six students were part of a special Social Studies project to learn about the three branches of government. As part of that project, they contacted offices within each branch to arrange personal interviews.

I am sure glad they did.

I thought other students and other teachers might learn from the great questions these students had so, here’s the video:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Law Day Ceremony Honors 'The Chief'

We bid a final farewell on Saturday to a man whose legacy will endure in the Ohio judicial system for generations to come.

In a Law Day memorial tribute at The Ohio State University, more than 700 gathered to remember the remarkable life of Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer who died in office on April 2 just two weeks shy of his 71st birthday and 24 years as the Chief.

Here's a tribute to the Chief.

Here's the complete video of the event.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

'New Media' Challenges Discussed at Jury Management Conference

The Ohio Jury Management Association's annual conference this week focused on "Modern Jury Management," and I was delighted to be given the opportunity to address the group.

One of the topics I discussed is how so-called "new media" are transforming the way people communicate and how this effects courts and, in particular, the management of juries.

What do we mean by "new media"? The national Conference of Court Public Information Officers is doing a research project on the topic and has identified seven categories of new and emerging digital communication technology that are having an impact on the judicial system. These are:

1) Social Media Profile sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn allow users to have an online personal profile and connect with defined networks of "friends."
2) Microblogging sites like Twitter are systems that allow users to post short (in the case of Twitter 140 characters) entries about what they are doing or thinking and build a network of followers and also other people they are following.
3) News categorizing, sharing and syndication is a broad category of sites and applications that are transforming the way news is delivered and consumed.
4) Smart Phones and Tablets like the iPhone, the Droid and the iPad, place portable multimedia capability in the palm of your hand and create obvious challenges for judges managing  their courtrooms.
5) Video sharing sites like YouTube and Hulu give anyone with a video device and an Internet connection the ability to compete with the evening news.
6) Wikis are collaborative online tools that allow for anyone to contribute to and access vast information resources.
7) Monitoring and metrics are sites and applications that give us powerful capabilities to make sense of this complex new media world by systematically collecting and analyzing information about how people are using new media and what people are saying in cyberspace.

All this new technology poses both great promise and potential complications for the courts. On the one hand, with enhanced  ability to communicate, we are aided in our mission of supporting public trust and confidence in the system by making it more transparent, accessible and understandable. However, the judiciary has a set of unique challenges when using this technology because of our equally important mandate to be independent and impartial. Jurors Twittering, judges Facebooking? Video iPhones in the courtroom?

It is indeed a brave new world, but it is also an exciting time to be working in the court system.

For more information about the CCPIO New Media project, visit this site, where if you like, you can join and contribute to the conversation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Please Join Us May 1 to Honor Chief Justice Moyer

Many have asked for more information about the public tribute being planned for Chief Justice Moyer, so I wanted to share the information here (see below). Also, video of the Chief's beautiful funeral service is now available online, click here.

Remembering Chief Justice Moyer
Please join the Justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio on Law Day to honor the life and legacy of Chief Justice Moyer. The ceremony will include a processional and assembly of robed judges.
When:11 a.m., Saturday, May 1, 2010
Where:The Ohio Union at the Ohio State University
1739 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43210
RSVP:The Supreme Court of Ohio
or 614.387.9510
Please include your name and title and the names of your guests.
Driving directions
Parking is available.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Next "Forum on the Law" Will Feature OSU Law Prof. Davies

I just learned that the next event in the Ohio Supreme Court's "Forum on the Law" lecture series will feature Ohio State Law Professor Sharon Davies, who will talk about her book, Rising Road, which recounts a racially charged murder and trial in the Jim Crow South of the 1920s.

Davies is John C. Elam/Vorys Sater Designated Professor of Law at Ohio State University. She served for five years as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. A specialist in criminal law and procedure, she has published widely in prominent law journals and served as chairperson of the Criminal Justice Section of the Association of American Law Schoold. This should be a good lecture. To reserve a seat, email or call 614-387-9267 by April 20.

Below is a video of the first Forum on the Law event last year. Notre Dame Professor Linda Przybyszewski discusses the tale of the Cincinnati Bible War. The case helped frame the national debate about church/state relations well into the 20th Century

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Congratulations to Indian Hill High School

Kudos to the hard working students of Indian Hill High School in Cincinnati who for the second straight year won the High School Mock Trial State Championship last week and will now advance to the national championship tournament this spring in Philadelphia.

We will all be pulling for them because if they succeed, Indian Hill will become the first Ohio team to win the national title.

Established in 1983 by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE) as a statewide educational program, the Ohio Mock Trial Program is designed to help students become aware of their constitutional rights and responsibilities. Sponsors of the OCLRE include the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio State Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation.

For those unable to watch the final round live pitting Indian Hill against Sylvania Southview High School on the Ohio Channel on Saturday, it will be rebroadcast on the following days and times:

•At 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 18; Saturday, March 20; Friday, March 26; and Sunday, March 28
•At 5 a.m. on Friday, March 19; Sunday, March 21; Saturday, March 27; and Monday, March 29

Congratulations to these champions on a job well done and good luck in Philladelphia!