Monday, December 8, 2014

Get Ready to Celebrate Your Rights

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day. It’s the day to celebrate the individual liberties that our U.S. Constitution protects.

The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1789.  Throughout the 227 years of its existence, it has been amended 27 times to meet current needs.
The first 10 amendments were written on December 15, 1791 by James Madison and are known as the Bill of Rights.  The Bill of Rights explains that government power is limited and specifically lists the important rights belonging to each individual in the country. 
As part of this year’s celebration of the anniversary of the Bill of Rights, the United States Courts interviewed students from Miami University of Ohio to have them explain why the Bill of Rights is important to them. Click below to view their responses.

More educational resource tools about Bill of Rights Day are found on the United States Courts website.

Friday, November 7, 2014

We the Students Scholarship Essay Contest

High school students interested in a chance to win scholarship money may want to check out a new essay contest from the Bill of Rights Institute.

Patriotic imageWe the Students Scholarship competition seeks to help high school students understand the freedom and opportunity that the Constitution offers. Prizes include $5,000 for the winning essay writer and $500 for his or her teacher.

In 800 words or fewer, students must answer the question: “Since you were born, has America moved closer to or further away from the ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence?”

If video is more your style, there’s a video contest, too.

The deadline to submit an essay or video is December 5, 2014.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nothing Lost in Translation

Can you imagine walking into a room full of strangers who start talking in a language that you can’t understand? That happens in courtrooms around Ohio every day for people who are limited in their English proficiency, or are deaf or hard of hearing.

The Ohio Supreme Court is committed to ensuring equal access to justice for all who come before the court. We have put in place services to courts to protect rights of individuals with special language needs, including rules and guidelines for the use of court interpreters.

Court certified language interpreters are dedicated men and women who provide interpretation services in thousands of cases each year. They work hard to ensure that nothing gets lost in translation. They become a key connection between witnesses, defendants, lawyers, judges, and other court personnel.

You can hear interpreters explain the important role they play in our judicial system in this video from Court News Ohio.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Transportation Grants Now Available to Visit Ohio Supreme Court

Are you an educator looking for a fun, hands-on approach to teach students about civic education? Look no further than the Visitor Education Center (VEC) located in the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.

Even if you think it is too expensive to travel, or not in your school’s budget this year, you may be surprised. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Civic Education Section is accepting online applications for transportation grants of up to $440 to help schools offset costs to visit the VEC.

Online applications from teachers or administrators will be accepted from October 17 through November 7. The grants will be used for visiting in January through June 2015. The grants, paid for by the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center Foundation, are for schools with students in the fourth through twelfth grades.

All Ohio educators are eligible to apply for a grant, which will be awarded to schools with the highest percentage of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program as reported by the Ohio Department of Education.

For more information, please email the VEC at or call 614.387.9223.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

UT Unveils Women Lawyers History Project

Hooray for my alma mater, the University of Toledo College of Law! The school is teaming up with the Toledo Women’s Bar Association (TWBA) to preserve stories of women lawyers from the Toledo area for the Toledo Women Lawyers History Project.

A dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on October 2 at 5:30 p.m. in the LaValley Law Library at UT.  Daniel Steinbock, the College of Law dean, and TWBA President Lindsay Navarre will discuss the project and unveil 12 portraits of attorneys created by artist and College of Law graduate Paula Mowery.

Julia Bates

Featured paintings of attorneys include Florence Hartman Wells, the first woman to be elected to both branches of the Ohio legislature; Alice Robie Resnick, the second woman elected to the Ohio Supreme Court and the founder of the TWBA and Ohio Women’s Bar Association; and College of Law alumna Julia Bates, the first woman elected as Lucas County Prosecutor. 
Hon. Alice Robie Resnick

“The biggest transformation in the legal profession in the past century is the entry of substantial numbers of women at all levels,” Steinbock said. “We are proud to be a part of this commemoration.”
The paintings will be on permanent display on the library’s second floor. Plans for a second phase of the project include a speaker series and an interactive display. Women were first admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in 1878.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2015 Mock Trial Competition Deadline Ahead

Teachers, this is your chance to be part of the largest high school mock trial program in the nation.  The registration deadline for teams and participants is December 5.

The Ohio Center for Law-Related Education is gearing up for the new school year, which means it’s time for the 2015 Mock Trial Competition. The competition allows students to assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses as they learn about the constitution and their rights as citizens. Many students “catch the spark” in this program and later become lawyers.  For instance, my son, Judge Joshua Lanzinger of the Toledo Municipal Court, is just one example of a former high school participant.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor supports teacher and student participation in the competition. She and Ohio State Bar Association President Martin Mohler talk about this year’s mock trial case.

High School Mock Trial 2015 Competition dates:
·         District Competitions:  Friday, January 30, 2015
·         Regional Competitions:  Friday, February 20, 2015
·         State Competition:  Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, March 12 – 14, 2015
For more information about becoming involved with the Ohio High School Mock Trial program, please contact Priya Sonty:, 614-485-3507.

Don’t miss this great opportunity – act by December 5!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Teachers: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and iCivics Need You – Hurry

Do your students like video games? Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and the iCivics team are recruiting 30 teachers or up to 1,200 students for a pilot program to test a popular game called Argument Wars. The program will help create assessments to go with the games.

The pilot program will be limited, so apply quickly. The teachers and students need to be in 5-10th grades and have access to computers between September 29 and October 24.
What you get for participating:
·         Access to reports of how your students performed in the game
·         A certificate of participation from iCivics

Your students will also learn about landmark Supreme Court cases.
Interested? Contact Alison Atwater for more information.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Ohio Participates in Constitution and Citizenship Days

Ohio will be one of 20 states participating in a first-ever nationally coordinated naturalization ceremony on September 17 and 18 to celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland will host the event in Ohio and Chief Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio will lead the ceremony, which honors America’s newest citizens.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Judges in School

While students may think they are the only ones who hit the books every fall, judges regularly attend classes, too.  Here in Ohio, judges belong to their associations – municipal and county court, probate, domestic relations, juvenile, and appellate judges – and all have special groups that regularly present courses helpful to their work.

In addition, twice a year the Ohio Judicial Conference gathers all judges together and provides programs of interest to them. The fall program this year included updates in state case law and legislative developments, programs on court technology, information on the use of specially trained courthouse facility dogs, and a two-hour session with recent information on drug abuse.

While attorneys must attend 24 hours of course work biennially, judges currently need 40 hours.   Some judges have been to the National Judicial College and all judges regularly participate in continuing legal education offered by the Ohio Judicial College. Learning is life-long, and is an important part of a legal professional's occupation.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Courts Warming up to Social Media

A new national survey by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers shows the impact social media is having on judges and courts.

The 2014 CCPIO New Media Survey has some interesting findings. More courts are using social media like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as a public information tool. Facebook use by courts is up by more than 5 percent; Twitter use increased by 3.5 percent and YouTube by 3.2 percent.

Court officials have also changed their attitudes about reporters’ use of social media during courtroom proceedings. Nearly 66 percent of court officials in the previous survey had objected to the media’s sending of messages. Now only 46 percent say it’s inappropriate and 39 percent have no problem permitting it. 

Over time more judges and court personnel have begun to become comfortable using social media themselves, but there are still pitfalls for judges due to ethical restrictions on what they may say about their pending work and opinions they express. I certainly understand that concern, and since my first blog post in 2010, I’ve been very cautious in the topics chosen because I write as a sitting justice. 

I was glad to share some thoughts about blogging in the survey report. While by no means an expert in the field of communication, I am a firm believer that exchanging ideas on the best ways to help the public understand our courts is time well spent.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Law & Leadership Institute Student’s Perspective

In the summer of 2008, the Ohio Supreme Court started a pilot program to help increase the number of young people from underserved communities in the legal profession. Today, more than 400 students are involved in the Law and Leadership Institute (LLI) program that has spread to eight law school campuses in Ohio.

Athena Williams has been involved in LLI for two years. Athena will be a high school tenth grader this year, and she is already getting a taste of what it’s like to be a lawyer. She is a very engaging young lady, and I’m sure she will succeed in whatever career path she chooses.

Athena gives a report about her LLI experience this summer in this video story.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Does Independence Mean to You?

Our country celebrates its 238th birthday tomorrow. The Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, but the official document wasn’t ready until two days later. So, we celebrate our independence on July 4.

The U.S. Courts put together a great video in which citizens, attorneys, and federal judges from across the country reflect on what independence means, and how the U.S. courts protect their freedoms. The different perspectives are very interesting.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Addressing an Epidemic

Back in 1985 when I first became a judge and served in the Toledo Municipal Court, we had few drug cases other than marijuana. But over the next 20 years, we saw drugs of choice change from those of powder and crack cocaine to Oxycontin. Today, we are faced with an epidemic that takes the lives of hundreds of Ohioans each year – opiate abuse involving prescription pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin.

On June 30, more than 800 of Ohio’s judges and others concerned about the impact this epidemic has on their courts and in their communities came to Columbus for the Ohio Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor helped to open the one-day event that explained the consequences of addiction and offered information on promising judicial practices leading to new methods of treatment for offenders. Each team of the 83 counties represented returned to their communities with a plan to find specific solutions.

Many courts have begun to address this serious problem by using drug courts, which bring together court and treatment personnel to work collaboratively in assisting defendants with their addiction issues by treatment instead of jail or prison. The drug courts are seeing results with reduced recidivism and improved treatment for drug offenders, and with measurable cost savings. Court News Ohio recently visited the drug court at Fairfield County Municipal Court. You can watch the video here:

There’s still much to be done to stop the alarming trend of illegal drug use and death due to opiates. The actions that will be taken as a result of the Ohio Judicial Symposium on Opiate Addiction are steps in the right direction.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Furry Friend Works in Court

A new, furry employee is working in an Ohio court. Camry is a facility dog walking the halls in Marion County Family Court. He’s been with the court for a month but only since last week has he been in an actual courtroom. Camry helps defuse stress for children and even adults when they come to court.

Camry is the first of his kind as he was placed with a courthouse. Typically facility dogs who work in a courtroom setting are placed with a prosecutor’s office or with a victim advocacy group. There are currently 60 facility dogs nationwide in 32 states. Three of those dogs are in Ohio. Joining Camry is Avery with the Summit County prosecutor’s office and Nanook with Michael’s House in Greene County.

Any four-legged friend that helps children in the courtroom receives a blue-ribbon from me – especially one who knows 40 commands.
Click below to watch Camry’s story.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Schools and Teachers Needed for iCivics Pilot Project

Do you want to help students this summer learn more about citizenship? iCivics needs your help!

iCivics is working in conjunction with GlassLab and Filament Games to upgrade a popular game called Argument Wars. Middle and high school students and teachers are needed to improve the learning that occurs within the game’s cases.

iCivics is looking for 6th through12th grade students to play four games and then complete a short online survey. Their teachers – you! – would be volunteering on June 16 through July 3 to supervise the students testing out the new version of Argument Wars and provide feedback from what they also learned from the game. All pilot testing takes place online.

Contact Alison Atwater at by June 6 to learn more about this terrific program.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Celebrating A Civil Rights Landmark

It has been 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education, the case in which the doctrine of “separate but equal” was finally struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The United States Courts website has compiled a list of materials for teachers who wish to study this landmark case.
The resources include:
1.     A prepared script for readers to reenact the case – participants hold their own copy of the script and read their respective parts but do not memorize their lines. The emphasis is on comprehension and student-centered learning.
2.     The history of Brown v. Board of Education – teacher materials include a video of a young Thurgood Marshall from the site, Teachers Domain.
3.     Profile of Justice Thurgood Marshall – a summary of his early life, education, and legal career.

Teachers may download an activity package with recommendations on how to use the material.   

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Cultural Exchange

On April 29, I had an enjoyable dinner with seven Libyan judges who had spent the day in Columbus, touring the local courts and observing oral arguments at our Supreme Court. The judges came to Ohio as part of a three-week visit sponsored by the government of Libya to learn about the American system of justice. Following their professional training program, these judicial delegates will return to Libya with new ideas based on their experiences abroad.

At the dinner, I discovered that this is a time of great promise for Libyans. The State of Libya is located in northern Africa and has a population of more than 6 million. Since 2011, with the death of Muammar Gaddafi and his regime, Libya has been governed by a temporary constitution and is undergoing political reconstruction and reform. The judges told me that the new members of the commission charged with drafting the consitution had recently been announced and that they were eager for the completion of its work. The document will be put to a referendum when a new constitution is completed. The people of Libya will have a say.

Justice Lanzinger with Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Libyan delegates and guests

The Libyan judges join a special group of visitors. The Ohio Supreme Court has worked with lawyers, judges, legislators, and government officials from other countries to help develop independent judiciaries and train judges for more than 20 years. I, myself, was part of a delegation to Ukraine in 1995, and we have also had visitors from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Serbia. The personal contact between judges of different cultures cannot be overestimated, and I am happy to have been part of the conversation with our colleagues from Libya.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Video Explores Art and Architecture of Supreme Court Building

Even if you haven't been able to visit the building that houses the Supreme Court yet, here's your chance to take a visual tour and explore its exquisite art and architecture. This segment comes from WOSU-TV's "Broad and High" program. The full episode will air at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Off-Site Court in My Own Backyard

On April 9, I had the rare opportunity to bring my colleagues to my hometown, Toledo, for a formal session of the Ohio Supreme Court.  Twice a year we justices leave the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus to bring oral arguments to high school students, allowing them to personally hear real cases.  We held our 2014 spring Off-Site Program at the University of Toledo College of Law.

More than 350 high school students from 11 high schools in the Toledo area and dozens of law students from the university observed two civil cases and one criminal case. Local attorneys and teachers prepared the students well. After hearing the cases, the students met with the attorneys who argued the cases to ask questions and discuss the legal issues.  Many students mentioned that this was the most interesting part of their day.

Former Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer started the Off-Site Court Program in 1987 in Toledo as part of his efforts to explain the work of our court.   When we returned for the 68th session this year, oral arguments were held for the first time in the College of Law’s McQuade auditorium.   That happens to be the same place where I gave the valedictory speech for my law school class. Holy Toledo! Who knew I would end up on the Supreme Court 37 years later?  It’s just possible that someone who attended the Off-Site Program might be one of our future justices – it very well could be. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ohio Mock Trial March Madness XXXI

The NCAA is not the only game in town. Ohio high schools had their own version of March Madness this past week when in the span of three days, 30 teams from across the state competed in the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education’s 31st High School Mock Trial Competition.

Preliminaries had been conducted throughout the state, and winners advanced to the regional competitions. The state semi-finals began on Thursday, March 6 at the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus with two teams advancing to the finals held Saturday at the Ohio Statehouse. Sylvania Southview High School in Lucas County and Orange High School in Cuyahoga County each won four consecutive trials to advance to the championship.
The mock trials this year focused on the First Amendment freedom of expression and Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The case pitted the school district against students who protested the district’s signing the high school field’s naming rights to a large corporation. The competing teams, coached by their volunteer legal advisors, presented their cases before a panel of two judges and two attorneys in a case written by a committee of volunteer attorneys.
2014 Ohio High School Mock Trial champions
Sylvania Southview
with the panel of judges after the competition.
The panel that presided over the championship after lengthy deliberations chose Sylvania Southview as the winner. Team member Yuran Chen was singled out for his outstanding performance as a plaintiff’s attorney. This is the first time in 10 years that a Southview team has won the championship.

Beginning in 1983, The Mock Trial Program is Ohio’s largest high school academic competition with more than 3,000 students participating each year. The case materials show students what a case is like and how it progresses throughout a trial and allow them to become attorneys and witnesses. We now have attorneys and at least one judge who actually got their first taste of law through by experiencing the mock trial program.

The Madness continues into May, when competition goes national in Madison, Wisconsin. Stay tuned, and we will update you on the outcome.

Good luck, Sylvania Southview! You carry the best wishes of your state. Do us proud!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ohio!

Two hundred eleven years ago Ohio became the 17th state in our nation. President Thomas Jefferson allowed Ohio to apply for statehood in April 1802 when he signed the Enabling Act into law. Later that year a state constitutional convention was held, and on February 19, 1803, President Jefferson approved and signed the first Ohio Constitution.

We officially celebrate Ohio’s birth as a state on March 1, 1803, when the General Assembly gathered for the first time to meet in Chillicothe, the new state capital. Statehood Day is a good time to reflect on our history and the founders who established our governing principles. These principles developed over time, and often were determined by the judiciary.

For example, in an early case, the Supreme Court of Ohio was called upon in 1807 to decide the extent of the authority given by the constitution to the state’s legislature. In Rutherford v. McFadden, the Court asserted its right to nullify an unconstitutional act of the General Assembly.

The Ohio Historical Society will hold its annual Statehood Day event at the Ohio Statehouse on Thursday, February 27. The keynote luncheon speaker is Erin Moriarty, an Ohio native and reporter for CBS News.

On whatever day we remember Ohio’s birth, let us strive to ensure that it will stay healthy to celebrate many, many more.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Civics Challenge – A National Essay Contest

Attention, teachers in the 3rd, 4th and 5thgrades:

You have an opportunity to let your students become civics champions. How? By having them join the national civics essay competition.

The National Center for State Courts invites third-to fifth-graders to submit a 100-word essay on “What is Civics Education and Why Is It Important?“ The winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card and copies of the educational graphic novel, Justice Case Files: The Case of the Broken Controller,for his or her grade. The winning entry will also be featured in future NCSC publications.

Entries can be hand-written or typed. Find out how to enter at Come on students. Let’s show the nation that Ohio knows its stuff!

Essays are due by February 20.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Martin Luther King’s Dream of Justice

State and federal government offices, including the Ohio Supreme Court, will be closed on Monday to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

More than 50 years ago,  Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech inspired our nation. And today, students still learn about the meaning of the speech that continues to inspire.  Each February as part of the Supreme Court’s recognition of Black History Month we hear from the local junior division winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest.

It’s wholly appropriate that the Supreme Court hosts this celebration. The ideals that Dr. King outlined in 1963 are those of legal justice and equality. These are the hopes not just of one person, but are the ideals on which our country was founded and those that are to be upheld by our state and federal courts.

State law requires  each judge in Ohio to take an oath of office that promises to strive for justice and equal protection under law.  After swearing or affirming to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Ohio,  the judge promises to  “administer justice without respect to persons,”  and to faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all of the duties of the office according to the best of his or her ability and understanding.
These words regarding administering justice “without respect to persons” echo the portion of Dr. King’s speech that said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The U.S. Supreme Court building has the words “Equal Justice Under Law” prominently displayed.  We in the legal profession must continue to work toward equality and justice. And as a nation we can hope Dr. King’s words become more than a dream.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

All in the Family

On December 30, I had the pleasure of administering the oath of office to my son, Josh, as he began a six-year term as a Toledo Municipal Court judge. It was a very proud moment for me to hear him report that he would “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform” his duties “so help me God.”

The Lanzinger family attends swearing-in ceremony
for Toledo Municipal Court Judge Joshua W. Lanzinger.
More than 28 years ago, I began my judicial career in the same court. Now, for the first time, a mother and son are serving together on judicial benches in Ohio.

But other duos of parents and children also exist throughout the state.

My colleague, Justice Terrence O’Donnell and his daughter, Colleen, now a common pleas judge, are among them.

What makes a child follow a parent as a judge? A new video featuring Justice O’Donnell’s daughter and my son has been produced for Court News Ohio. It can be viewed at