Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Judicial Oath of Office and New Justices

Did you know that a judge or justice is required to take an oath of office before they begin  to serve? The oath of office states:

“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 of the duties incumbent upon me as (name of office) according to the best of my ability and understanding.”

According to the Ohio Revised Code, justices of the Supreme Court take the oath of office before the first date of their official term.  Ohio judges from all other courts, on the other hand, may take the oath of office on the first date of their official term.  All judges and justices must to sign a judicial oath, which is then filed with the clerk of court.

But what you may not know is that there may be a separate ceremony before the public administration of a judge's oath. And the private ceremony may actually be the official occasion. For example, because a justice must be sworn in by a currently sitting justice, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor will administer the oath to William O'Neill on December 27 in Cleveland. Afterwards, former Justice Alice Resnick will swear him in before a public audience. And even though he takes the oath on that day, his six-year term of office does not begin until the clock strikes midnight on January 2, 2013.


In contrast, when a justice is appointed mid-term, as was former Justice Yvette McGee Brown, in 2010, her opponent, Sharon Kennedy, who won the general election, automatically became a justice as soon as the votes were certified.  Justice Kennedy’s term expires in two years and to receive a full term she would run again in 2014.  Justice Evelyn Stratton is retiring at the end of the year before her term expires, and so her successor, who will be named by the governor, must also run for a full six-year term in 2014.

And so, the Supreme Court of Ohio will begin 2013 with three new justices.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Voters Should Not Forget the Judges

Now that the dust has settled in this presidential election year, I wonder how many people voted for the judicial candidates listed on their ballots? Most of the time and attention this year was focused on the presidential race many voters may not have known those who were running for judicial office. But it is important to discover and compare the qualifications of the candidates for yourself.

Not every state allows people the level of involvement that we have in Ohio in deciding who will serve as a judge. Twenty-nine states have appointed judges while 21 have elections. Ohio elects its judicial candidates in partisan primaries, and then has general elections where party affiliation is not shown on the ballot. The Governor appoints if there is a judicial vacancy, but the people of Ohio will then vote in the next election. To run for the Supreme Court, appeals court, common pleas court, or municipal and county courts, a person must be a practicing lawyer for six years.

Many classrooms conducted mock elections this year for president. This experience, I hope, encourages the students to vote when they reach age 18 and participate in our democracy. Participation in Ohio includes electing judges.

To have your voice heard in choosing who serves on our courts, in each election find the judicial races at the bottom of the ballot and make sure to vote for every race. But before you vote, do your homework and research who you are voting for.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Teens Can Sink Teeth into Halloween-Themed Case

Periodically, I try to let teachers know of online materials that may assist them in social studies classes, particularly those materials that relate to the judiciary. Here is an interesting idea from the U.S. courts website, and it’s timely given that Halloween is just around the corner.

An interactive educational program on the First Amendment and social media designed for high school students uses a real case about the U.S. Supreme Court’s school newspaper censorship decision (Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier) and applies it to a fictional student vampire club.

The Fangtastics go to court when high school administrators drive a stake through the heart of their online postings. Was it a case of protected critical satire or dangerous cult activity?

In the classroom, instructors may choose an Oxford-style debate or a full-fledged courtroom drama to examine opposing sides of the social media/free speech issue. It’s all in fun, especially as Halloween approaches. For more on social media and the First Amendment – and where vampires stand on the issues – take a look at these resources.

Additional reality-based courtroom simulations on a variety of topics of interest to high school students are also available.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Could You Pass the U.S. Citizenship Test?

Although most of us become U.S. citizens through birth, people born outside the United States can do so through the naturalization process.

Becoming a naturalized citizen involves preparing for a 100-question civics test, although an applicant is typically asked to answer only 10 questions during the oral exam. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an applicant must answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the test.

I bring this up because I read a story recently in Parade magazine about former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s iCivics program, for which I am a representative in Ohio. A citizenship questionnaire was part of that article.

Would your civics knowledge allow you to become a U.S. citizen? Check out these questions by clicking the link below—some are pretty tough— see how many you get right.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Help for Civics Teachers

Once again, I would like to highlight a new link Constitution Classroom that has become available for teachers who plan social studies classes at the middle and high school levels. The Ohio State Bar Foundation has created a number of tools to help teachers plan programs around the constitution.

The 2010 Fellows class, all practicing members of the Ohio bar, prepared PowerPoint segments on a variety of constitutional topics.

The topics include:

• Free Speech, Religion, Press, Assembly, Petition We’re Number One! Search and Seizure A Reasonable Test

• Due Process Respecting Our Rights

• Three Branches of Government A Constitutional Blueprint

Each topic also has case materials for mock trials and other information to help with several lesson plans.

Constitution Classroom can be found here:

The attorneys who prepared this site hope that it will help promote classroom conversations. Let them know if their work was useful.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Cases Are Heard by the Supreme Court?

You may be surprised to learn that not every case appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court is accepted for review. Our jurisdiction, meaning the scope of our work, is defined in the Ohio Constitution. The constitution provides that we are to decide cases with constitutional questions, death penalty cases and those from administrative agencies such as the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. But that is just a small portion of the 2,000 cases that are filed in the court every year.

Most of our work comes through “discretionary review” of court of appeals’ cases. This is another way of saying that we ourselves choose the cases that we will hear and decide. We call these “jurisdictional” cases, and at least four of the seven justices must vote to accept a case before it is accepted. Otherwise, we decline jurisdiction and the case stays settled as it was by the court of appeals.

How do we decide whether a case should be heard?

The constitution tells us that discretionary appeals should involve felonies or questions of “public or great general interest.” Before voting on the jurisdictional cases, each justice reads and considers the legal arguments prepared by the attorneys pro and con on whether the case has public or great general interest.

Of course each case is the most important case to the parties involved, but it might not have great general interest because the facts are so limited. Many times the rule of law has already been settled and the court does not need to repeat what has been declared already. On the other hand, if the legislature has enacted a new law that seems to be unclear, or if the 12 courts of appeals are ruling differently in the same type of cases, or if a new situation appears that seems to be unprecedented, we may find that four justices vote to take in that case and review it further .

How easy is it for a discretionary appeal to open the Supreme Court’s door? Our statistics show that we have accepted only about 7 percent of the cases seeking review.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Labor Day Reminders Adorn the Ohio Judicial Center

Labor Day is this Monday, and of course we celebrate the traditional end of summer with picnics and family relaxation. But sometimes amid the hotdogs and last dips in the pool we forget that  Labor Day was created to remember the workers who built our nation and continue to make it prosperous and productive. A visit to the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center would serve as a good reminder of labor’s importance to the United States and the Buckeye State.

Throughout our historic building there are great works of art that recognize what we celebrate on Labor Day. It is a building that remembers labor, both inside and out.

On the exterior of the building for example, marble bas relief sculptures illustrate dozens of industries from woodworking to beekeeping. On the northeast corner of the center’s exterior, a carved saying proclaims in stone what could be the Labor Day motto: “The whole fabric of society rests upon labor.”
When you enter the building and visit the North Hearing Room you will see the area of the Judicial Center with the most obvious labor theme.

Architect Harry Hake designed this room to be used by the Industrial Commission for workers compensation hearings. John F. Holmer created 11 murals titled The Progress of Industry, which realistically depict the dignity of physical labor. They reflect a style of public art popular throughout the 1930s known as American Realism.

The center panels on the north and south walls to the right and the left as you enter the room are the major paintings in the series. On the right, in the center of the north wall, early Ohio industry is depicted. Men are shown plowing, driving an oxcart, digging, and hauling lumber for a building under construction in the smaller panel to the right. Women are spinning, churning, and carrying water.
Across from this painting, on the south wall is a contrasting scene of a modern steel building being erected.

The rest of the murals are divided between early scenes of Ohio labor and modern work. Flanking the center mural on the left on the north wall, is a scene depicting the early pottery industry, including workers at a potter's wheel, a kiln, and pots drying in the sun. The right hand panel on the west wall shows a blacksmith shop.

A three-panel mural covers the east wall. Pioneers arrive in Ohio in Conestoga wagons toward the  center panel,  a rural scene, while on the right, miners, a coal tipple, and oil derricks symbolize the modern period.  At the west wall on the left side of the window, men work with various machines, in contrast to the blacksmith who uses older hand tools in the scene on the right. The south wall’s  main mural is accompanied by a modern steel mill on the left and   a modern stone quarry on the right.
 This room is now used primarily for hearings by Supreme Court commissions such as the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline.

As you relax this Monday, take a moment to remember the reason for Labor Day. And if you need a reminder, come and visit the Moyer Judicial Center.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Recess is Over

If you have been following the court schedule, you may have noticed that from July 11 until August 21 the Supreme Court took a bit of a recess in hearing new cases. Of course, in the meantime we justices handled administrative matters and continued to work on our opinions for cases that we have already heard. But the Supreme Court of Ohio is unlike the U.S. Supreme Court in that we do not begin a new term on the first Monday in October and do not have three months off in the summer.

This fall we will again travel for Off-Site Court – this time to Cleveland. We will hear four oral argument cases at the Case Western Reserve University Law School on Tuesday, September 25, and then convene at the Cuyahoga County Courthouse on Wednesday, September 26 to hear four more cases. Both sessions will begin at 9 a.m., and just as in the past, will be attended by local high school students who have been briefed on the case they will attend by their teachers and volunteer attorneys. Law students will attend Tuesday’s oral arguments. A summary of the eight cases (four civil and four criminal) can be found here.

As always, I look forward to sharing thoughts about the court process beforehand with my colleagues to all students. We enjoy the questions asked by the student participants.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

You Be the Judge

The 2012 Summer Olympics has ended but interest in athletics remains timeless. Athletics inspired a legal issue for Ohioans to think about.

Is playing high school sports a right or a privilege? That’s a question being posed to students at a newly revised display in the Visitor Education Center here at the Moyer Judicial Center.

This case came before the Ohio Supreme Court in 1981 after high school students who attended a Cincinnati private school but lived in Kentucky were prevented from playing junior varsity or varsity sports because a state rule limited eligibility to children of Ohio residents. The Kentucky students went to court claiming the rule violated their constitutional right to education and equal protection under the law.

What do you think? Is playing school sports part of the right to an education?

You can book a tour with the Visitor Education Center to find out what the Ohio Supreme Court justices decided in this case.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More Judges Using Facebook and Twitter Nationally

While students are more than comfortable with social media sites, a new national survey says more judges and courts are using Facebook and Twitter now too.

The 2012 Conference of Court Public Information Officers’ New Media and the Courts Survey shows how social media and broader technology changes in the media industry are affecting state and local judges and courts.

For instance, the percentage of judges who strongly agree that their own use of technology poses no threat to professional ethics has doubled since the first year of the survey. This applies whether the new media is used personally or professionally.

The complete project report, “2012 CCPIO New Media Survey, New Media and the Courts: The Current Status and A Look at the Future” is available on the CCPIO website at

Friday, July 27, 2012

Supreme Court case had an Olympic connection

With the official Opening Ceremony today for the London 2012 Olympics, it’s interesting to note that the Ohio Supreme Court decided an Olympic-related case in 1984.

The dispute centered on the American Can Company, Coca-Cola Company and Minute Maid Corporation promoting the likeness of Olympic athletes on disposable Dixie cups in commemoration of the 1980 Olympic Games.

Ohioan Charles Vinci, an Olympic gold medal winner in 1956 and 1960 in weightlifting, sued the companies in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court for using his name and likeness without his permission. He asked the trial court to certify the case as a class action, which it did.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s class action certification, and the Supreme Court affirmed the appeals court.

As for the eventual outcome of the case, the Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled in 1990 that the reference to the athletes’ names, likenesses and identities was merely incidental, historical information. The appeals court agreed with the trial court and affirmed its ruling.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Court News Ohio brings judicial system news to you

A comprehensive, multichannel, multimedia program covering news about the Ohio judicial system launched this week.

Because the YouTube generation relies so much on video for news delivery, Court News Ohio will have more visual stories instead of just text-based articles.

The program also will have a social media presence and include a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. Videos will be available for individual download or through a free podcast subscription on Apple iTunes.

Check out the promotional piece on Court News Ohio along with its website and let me know what you think.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A visit with some Glass City scholars

I had the privilege of meeting with and speaking to about 20 Toledo high school students enrolled in the Law and Leadership Institute (LLI) at the University of Toledo College of Law on Wednesday.

Toledo is my hometown and I’m glad to say that this group was just as impressive as the students I’ve visited with the previous three years.

Through the LLI program, a diverse group of students from underserved schools learn skills that will help them become lawyers or leaders in their communities. LLI enriches high school instruction through a four-year academic program in law, leadership, analytical thinking, problem solving, writing skills and professionalism.

I talked about the Supreme Court and the importance of listening, reading, thinking, writing and speaking – all necessary skills for any field of work. From their response and great questions, I know that these students will be successful in whatever paths they choose in their lives.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Governor has power to appoint vacancy

Recently, one of my colleagues, Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, announced that she will retire at the end of this year. My colleagues and I wish her well as she moves on to devote her efforts full-time to advocating on behalf of veterans and mental health issues.

So who will take her spot? Do you know what happens when there’s a vacancy on a court in Ohio?

According to Article IV, Section 13 of the Ohio Constitution, the governor has sole authority to fill all judicial vacancies in the state.

Whoever is appointed to replace Justice Stratton will serve out the remaining two years of the term Justice Stratton was elected to in 2008. The new justice will need to run in the November 2014 general election if he or she wants to serve a full six-year term.

All judicial vacancies are handled the same no matter the court. So the process to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court is the same for filling a vacancy on any other court in the state.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ask Justice Judy - Can Ohio Supreme Court justices be reprimanded for a remark they make during a case?

In our "Ask Justice Judy" series, today we answer a question from Bobby M., a senior from McComb High School in McComb.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Buckeye Girls State Welcomes Court Majority

The four women who are justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio will speak to 125 girls who are juniors in high school at the 66th session of Buckeye Girls State. Every year, girls from across Ohio attend this week-long program designed to educate them about the duties, privileges, rights and responsibilities of good citizenship, which this year will be hosted by the University of Mount Union in Alliance.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is the first woman to hold the chief justice position in Ohio history. Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton just announced she will retire at the end of the year and has served as a justice since 1996. I am in my second term on the court, although I have been a judge since 1985. And when Justice Yvette McGee Brown joined the Ohio Supreme Court in January 2011, the women outnumbered the men on the Supreme Court for only the third time in the court’s history.

In an hour session each of us will speak briefly about the Power of One and how one person can make a difference and answer questions about our life experiences. We look forward to meeting these fine students.

Inspired by Rosa Parks Day, the justices spoke of the Power of One at an event in December. Watch the video here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Seeking Justice for Nazi War Crimes

It’s remarkable how many Justices are connected to pivotal events in world history.

Take former Chief Justice Carrington Marshall for instance. He served on the Ohio Supreme Court from January 1, 1921 to December 31, 1932, but he’s better known for his later service to the worldwide legal community post-World War II.

On February 13, 1947 General Lucius Clay of the Office of Military Government for Germany appointed Chief Justice Marshall as presiding judge of an important case: The United States of America vs. Josef Altstotter, (1947). This trial, known as “The Judges’ Trial” was one of 12 held by the United States in Nuremberg after the end of WW II.

Sixteen German judges and lawyers were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the abuse of the judicial and penal process that resulted in mass murder, torture, plunder of private property and slave labor. Ten of the defendants were eventually found guilty, four were acquitted, one was excused due to illness and one committed suicide before the beginning of the trial. Due to serious illness, Chief Justice Marshall resigned on June 19, 1947 and returned to Ohio.

To read Chief Justice Marshall’s full biography, click on this link:

The Ohio Supreme Court hosted a lecture in 2010 on how the courts in Germany failed to stand in the way of the Holocaust. (Watch video.) The lecture will be offered again in Cleveland this fall.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ask Justice Judy - How does a case get to the Ohio Supreme Court?

In our "Ask Justice Judy" series, today we answer a question from Hayley D., a fourth-grader from Our Lady of Peace School in Columbus.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Memories of Marion

Last week, on April 25, we marked the beginning of our 25th anniversary for the Off-Site Court Program, when we hear oral arguments outside of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. Twice a year students can interact with justices, attorneys and court staff when we travel to different Ohio counties.

In Marion almost 65 students from Pleasant and Marion Harding high schools met with the justices before oral arguments. We had a chance to answer questions about Ohio’s courts and what it is like to be a justice. “It’s definitely a privilege,” said Hunter Workman, a Marion Harding High School senior. “For people who actually kind of care about the system and things like that it’s kind of cool to see how the inside of it works. I guess I expected them to be real strait-laced and not as candid as they were.”

Our session at the Marion County Court of Common Pleas was our 63rd Off-Site Court. Nearly 150 students from across Marion County participated and heard a case being argued. Afterwards, they met with the case attorneys to discuss the arguments they had just heard.

Marion County can boast of sending two people to serve as members of the Ohio Supreme Court since 1803: Ozias Bowen and William Zephaniah Davis.

Ozias Bowen served on the Ohio Supreme Court for a little more than a year and half from June 6, 1856 to February 9, 1858. He served as “president judge” of the second judicial circuit, which included Marion County and was also the Marion County prosecutor before and after his Supreme Court term.

Bowen granted freedom to an accused fugitive slave in 1839. Slavery proponents were so enraged that they burned Bowen in effigy and petitioned the Ohio House of Representatives for his impeachment and that of his fellow judge, Thomas J. Anderson. Although the House Judiciary Committee recommended dismissal of the charges it stated that the judges “acted indiscreetly in the discharge of their official duties.” While on the Supreme Court, Bowen wrote the majority opinion in an 1856 slave case that ruled that common law did not confer a right of property to own human beings.

Davis served almost 13 years on the court from January 8, 1900 to January 1, 1913. He holds the distinction of being the last justice to hold the unelected post of chief justice before an amendment to the state’s constitution. Davis studied German language and literature as a form of relaxation from his duties on the Ohio Supreme Court. He had 34 years of experience as a trial lawyer and in a 1923 address to the Columbus Bar Association said “much of my life was spent in the quiet and uneventful character of a country lawyer.”

Monday, April 30, 2012

Celebrate Law Day

In 1958 President Dwight Eisenhower established May 1st as Law Day, a day designed to counteract the Soviet Union’s celebration of communism and to remember our own American heritage of liberty, justice and equality under the law. It’s the 54th time we have been given the chance to reflect on these important democratic principles.

For 2012 the American Bar Association has adopted the Law Day theme “No Courts. No Justice. No Freedom.” This theme boldly states the importance of the third branch of government. Ohio’s Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor says, “Law Day is an opportunity for us to recommit ourselves to ensuring that our courts are properly funded. It is an opportunity to see to it that access to justice is universal; that the courthouse doors are open to all; and that we always have fair, impartial, and peaceful venues to resolve our disputes.”

There will be many events to recognize the importance of this day. You can find more information at the site of the American Bar Association:

In an August 22, 1864 speech to the 166th Ohio Regiment, President Abraham Lincoln took a long-term view of why we reinforce our American ideals and the rule of law:

“It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children's children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives.”

Let’s remember and pass on our heritage with pride, and vigilantly guard the ideals of liberty, justice and equality under law that we have been bequeathed. Not just on Law Day--always.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Every Other Week

When I talk to students, one question that comes up regularly is how often the Ohio Supreme Court hears cases.

Generally speaking, we hold oral arguments over two days every other week throughout the year. This week we hear cases Tuesday and Wednesday (with Wednesday’s session in Marion as part of the offsite court program). The court week is followed by an off-week when the justices have the opportunity to work on pending cases and prepare for new ones – most of the work of the court is actually done beyond the scene of the courtroom.

When our Supreme Court is in session, we hear four to six cases per day. The parties have 15 minutes apiece (except in death penalty cases where each side gets 30 minutes) to argue their positions and the attorneys must also answer questions from the justices during this time. Oral arguments begin at 9 a.m.

I hope you get a chance to hear and see an oral argument. If you can’t come to the court in person, you may watch a case online. Each day starts with these words from the marshal when he opens court:
“All rise. The honorable Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio.”

To watch a case that’s already been argued, click this link:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Supreme Court Connected to Famous Civil War General

As the nation continues to observe the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we note that the Supreme Court of Ohio is connected to a significant player in that conflict between the states.

You may remember reading in your history books about Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and his March to the Sea in 1864 during the Civil War. What you may not have read is that Sherman was a native of Lancaster, Ohio and that his father served on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Charles Robert Sherman was born on September 26, 1788, in Norwalk, Conn. He came to Ohio in 1810 and established his law practice in Lancaster, Ohio. He also had military experience, serving as a major in the Third Division of the Second Brigade of the Ohio Militia during the War of 1812.

The 15th member of the Supreme Court from January 28, 1823 until his death on June 24, 1829, Charles Sherman served a single term. This was a time when those who served on the Court traveled the entire state by horseback – riding the circuit – to hear cases.

General Sherman recalled how excited the children were when their father came home. He wrote: “I can remember well his coming home as usual on horseback, when all the boys would run to meet him. Whoever got to him first had the privilege to ride his horse back to the stable on the rear of the lot.”

Before his time on the Ohio Supreme Court, Charles Sherman served as collector of Internal Revenue for the Third District of Ohio and as a trustee of Ohio University. He also started a private elementary school in 1820 in Lancaster.

For more information on Justice Sherman, visit this link:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Marion or Bust!

In two weeks, the Supreme Court of Ohio will take its show on the road to Marion for the first off-site court session of 2012. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the program, which was started by the late Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer in 1987 to honor the 200th birthday of the U.S. Constitution.

What is off-site court? Twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, the seven justices travel to a city outside Columbus to hear scheduled oral arguments and allow local high school students to be present.

On Wednesday, April 25, beginning at 9 a.m., cases will be heard at Marion’s historic courthouse. The trip to Marion will be the 63rd time we have held oral arguments in a place other than Columbus.

We also speak beforehand to the students who have been prepared to listen to a particular case and who observe the Ohio Supreme Court in action. As a former teacher, this is my favorite part of the program. I look forward to meeting the students participating from Marion County.

If anyone has questions about this program, send them on to me, or you may read more about off-site court by clicking on this link:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Memories of a Class Visit

A teacher from Clevelands New Tech East High School who visited the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center with her students on Tuesday put together a photo essay of their field trip.

It shows the great time that one class had, and what you might expect when you tour the Visitor Education Center here at the Supreme Court.

The students from New Tech East also visited the Ohio Statehouse during their class trip to the capital city.

Watch the photo essay by clicking this link:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

One Justice, two Supreme Courts

Of the 153 people who have served on the Ohio Supreme Court over its 209-year history, only one has also served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

On February 20, 1816, John McLean began his term on the Ohio Supreme Court and served for nearly seven years.

For more than 31 years however, McLean served as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice until his death on April 4, 1861. Appointed by President Andrew Jackson, McLean wrote a number of anti-slavery opinions.

If you ever visit the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, you can see a bronze portrait of McLean in the Grand Concourse on the first floor. After you enter the building and go through security, turn right to reach the Grand Concourse. Look up and it will be high on the wall above you.

To read McLean’s full biography, click on this link:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Visitor Education Center Hits Record

Temperatures were not the only record highs for March 2012. Did you visit us at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center this month? If so, you helped make history – our Visitor Education Center saw a record number – 2,780 students in March, the most since the center opened in 2005. That’s about 1,200 more visitors this month than in March of last year.

The record number was due in part to transportation grants awarded to 100 schools across the state. The grants, worth up to $400, were awarded to Ohio schools that might not otherwise get to visit the Supreme Court due to budget constraints in their districts. The Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center Foundation donated $30,000 to the Visitor Education Center last fall specifically to fund the transportation grants.

One teacher from Andrew J. Rickoff Elementary School in Cleveland said most of her students are unable to leave the city and said she was extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit the center thanks to the transportation grants.

“As an urban educator, I never know how an experience will affect my students. However, I do know that by finding opportunities and providing them with many experiences allow them to have wide variety of back ground knowledge that doesn’t come out of a book,” Martha Verde said.

The Visitor Education Center is a dynamic teaching tool offering students grades 4th and above and inside look at Ohio Courts. There are interactive exhibits that portray the workings and history of the judicial system with hands-on materials and engaging exhibits and videos.

The Visitor Education Center is located on the Ground Floor of the Moyer Judicial Center in downtown Columbus. Visitors are welcome Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations for groups of eight or more are required and school tours typically last 90 minutes. You can call 614.387.9223 or e-mail to schedule a tour.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ask Justice Judy - Did you want to be a judge when you were a kid?

In the first in a series on the Justice Judy Blog, today we answer a question from Kelsea T., a fourth-grader from Highland Park Elementary School in Grove City.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Age is the only limit for judges’ terms

A Constitutional Modernization Commission will be meeting this year to consider changes to the Ohio Constitution. One of those potential changes concerns whether to eliminate term limits.

Did you know that term limits don’t affect judges?

Members of the General Assembly and statewide elected officials cannot serve more than eight consecutive years in the same position. Judges, meanwhile, can serve as long as voters continue to elect them, with one exception.

Under the Constitution, in most cases, judges cannot serve after they turn 70 years old. Here’s what the Constitution says:

“No person shall be elected or appointed to any judicial office if on or before the day when he shall assume the office and enter upon the discharge of its duties he shall have attained the age of seventy years.”

And although the Constitution refers to “he,” many women serve as judges too. All judges serve six-year terms, while the statewide officials of the other branches of government and members of the Ohio Senate serve four-year terms. Members of the Ohio House of Representatives serve two-year terms.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Nearly four decades of service

Three weeks ago, I told you about the person who served the shortest amount of time on the Ohio Supreme Court: Hocking Hunter. Who served the longest?

Edward S. Matthias was elected in 1914 and spent more than 38 years on the court. He worked with 33 other judges (they weren’t called justices yet) during this time and it’s estimated that he wrote more than 1,000 opinions for the Ohio Supreme Court.

Ohio voters apparently liked the Matthias name, because they elected Edward’s son – John M. Matthias – to the Court in 1954 to complete his father’s unexpired term. The younger Judge Matthias served for nearly 16 years.

Judges Edward and John Matthias are only the second father-son succession on the Ohio Supreme Court in its 209-year history. The other was Paul M. and Thomas M. Herbert.

To read his full biography, click on this link:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Statehood Day Honors Ohio’s Admittance Into the Union

Did you know that Ohio was the 17th state to be admitted to the Union? There is some dispute about the actual date in 1803 when that occurred, but Statehood Day is marked by historical and preservation societies in the Buckeye state every March 1.

Today, a lunchtime celebration will be held at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, featuring one of Ohio’s favorite sons. John Glenn, a former U.S. Senator from Ohio and the first American astronaut to orbit the earth 50 years ago, will be the keynote speaker. Admission is free.

Even if you won’t be in our capital city, there are ways to remember the birthday of our state. Take a look at the Ohio Statehouse website for interesting information about Ohio.

You might also want to see photographs of the actual documents that show the birth of the state, dating back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

There is a wealth of material available to help us appreciate our roots. Happy 209th birthday Ohio!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Supreme Court Justices Have Different Backgrounds

Although many people think that justices on the Supreme Court of Ohio have already served as judges, it may surprise you to know that not everyone comes to our court after serving as a judge. Right now, the only requirement for any judgeship – including the Supreme Court – is six years of experience as an attorney.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be the only person ever elected to every level of the court system: the municipal court, common pleas court, appeals court and now the Supreme Court. Nearly all the other justices have also had judicial experience before arriving at our Court. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, and Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Terrence O’Donnell and Yvette McGee Brown were trial judges. Justices O’Donnell and Robert Cupp were appellate judges.

The non-judicial government experience among us also varies. Chief Justice O’Connor served in the executive branch as lieutenant governor and director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. As a county commissioner Justice Cupp was also part of the executive branch. Justice Paul Pfeifer and Justice Cupp were members of the General Assembly, the legislative branch. This means that Justice Cupp has served in all three branches of government.

As you can see, our backgrounds differ. By combining our varied experiences, we can bring a better perspective to the cases that come before the Court.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The One-Day Justice

I thought it might be interesting to tell you about some of the people who have served on the Supreme Court of Ohio. Let’s start with the man who served the shortest term on the Supreme Court – Hocking H. Hunter. He took the oath of office on Feb. 9, 1864 and resigned the same day!

Why didn’t he serve longer on the Court? He realized he couldn’t keep his law practice while he discharged his judicial duties. Fortunately, his replacement, William White, had one of the longest tenures, serving for more than 19 years on the Court.

Before his one-day term at the Court, Hunter served for six years as the prosecuting attorney in Fairfield County. He also had two sons who served in the judiciary in other states, one in Washington and one as Chief Justice in Utah.

To read Hunter’s full biography, click on this link:

As of today, there are 153 people, including eight women who have been on our Court. Come back to the blog often to hear about them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

State of the Judiciary is judicial branch’s version of State of the State

Today is the State of the State, an annual speech given by the governor about the challenges and opportunities facing Ohio. It’s the Buckeye version of the annual State of the Union speech the President gives.

Did you know that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio delivers a similar address every September? It’s called the State of the Judiciary.

Every judge in every court in Ohio is invited to hear what the Chief Justice thinks are the most important issues confronting the judicial branch. The speech occurs at the same time as the annual meeting of the Ohio Judicial Conference, which is the association of judges throughout the state.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor gave her first State of the Judiciary last year. To learn more and view a video, click this link:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ask Justice Judy

Starting this week, every student who tours the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center and the Supreme Court of Ohio will receive a bookmark as a small token of our appreciation.

The bookmarks will be mailed to their teachers. Each bookmark contains two web addresses. One provides a link to my blog where students have a chance to send me a question. Students just have to click on the box that says “Ask Justice Judy” at the top right of this page. The questions can be about the judicial system or something they might be curious about after seeing the Visitor Education Center. I’ll answer a select question every week via video on my blog. This way, the students can learn more about the courts, and I can learn what interests them.

The second link – - gives students free access to civics education games. A great lesson plan helps them understand the basics of how government works and these games can reinforce those important lessons.

We can’t wait to see you on your visit to the Moyer Judicial Center.

Friday, January 20, 2012

1912 included big changes at the Supreme Court

The year 1912 has been in the news recently because of comparisons between the grounding of the cruise ship off the coast of Italy and the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago.

We at the Supreme Court recall 1912 as a significant year too, but for different reasons.

That September, Ohio voters amended the state’s constitution based on recommendations that came from the 1912 Constitutional Convention. Some of those changes affected the Supreme Court, the Justices and the judicial branch overall.

For instance:
• The number of Justices serving on the Supreme Court increased from six to seven, the same number we have now.
• The position of Chief Justice was created as a separately elected office. Before then, the leader of the Supreme Court was known as the chief judge.
• For every court in the state, no matter where the judge served, the judicial term was set at six years.

These changes adopted in 1912 have survived for nearly 100 years. Our Ohio Constitution may be amended in the future and only time will tell if there will be more changes to the judicial branch or to the Supreme Court.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Elections Include Judges

This year, 2012, is a big presidential election year, but did you know that many judges in Ohio will also be on the ballot?

Although you might be a long way off from reaching 18 and being able to vote, it’s important to know how your local judges are selected. Watch closely the March 6 primary and the Nov. 6 general election to see who’s running for judge. After all, they are part of the third branch of government, and in Ohio, they are chosen by the people.

All Ohio voters will be able to vote for three of the seven Supreme Court Justices since those candidates run statewide. And just as in other even-numbered years, some judges in other jurisdictions will also be elected. They are from appeals courts, common pleas courts, and county courts whose six-year terms have ended or those who were appointed by the governor in 2011 and must now run to finish unexpired terms. Municipal court judges are the only judges who run for office in odd-numbered years.

All judges in Ohio are elected to six-year terms. Judges without an election opponent automatically receive another full term, but judges may not run if they would be 70 at the time the new term begins. There are many special rules called “Judicial Canons” that judicial candidates must follow during their campaigning.

There’s also a difference between the primary election and general election for judges. In the primary, judges appear on the ballot of the specific party that has endorsed them. In the November general election, though, a party letter does not appear after the name of a judge because the general election is “non-partisan.” This is because a judge does not represent a particular party or its agenda, but is expected to follow the law impartially for all.