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.