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.”

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