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.