Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Chief Justice O’Connor Addresses Opioid Epidemic in State of Judiciary Speech

Image of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor speaking from a podium

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor

Image of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor speaking from a podium

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor

In the wake of continued fentanyl-related overdose deaths around the state, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor today urged courts and probation departments statewide to screen for fentanyl use among offenders under their supervision.

Those pointed remarks and others affecting the judicial branch were part of Chief Justice O’Connor’s sixth State of the Judiciary address before a gathering of 150 judges at the annual Ohio Judicial Conference in Columbus.

“I would encourage all drug courts – make that all courts and all probation departments throughout the state – to include, if you don’t already do so, fentanyl screening,” she said. “We all know that fentanyl and other forms of illicit opioids are making their way onto the streets. Basic opioid testing may not reveal the breadth of a person’s abuse. Without that screening, a person could be using and remain off the radar. This could happen even under court supervision. Loopholes like this need to be closed – and fast.”

The fentanyl remarks were part of a section of the speech devoted to a recent nine-state regional judicial opioid initiative held in Cincinnati. The yearlong, first-of-its kind initiative of regional policy planning and development across state criminal justice, public health, family support, and medical and behavioral treatment systems seeks to meaningfully engage partners on a regional level on ways to combat the opioid epidemic.

Chief Justice O’Connor also touched on her work nationally and statewide to eliminate so-called “debtors’ prisons” regarding fines, fees, and bail that disproportionately affect economically disadvantaged communities. She serves as co-chair of the National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices formed by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators.

Judges also were informed that proposed changes to Criminal Rule 6, which concerns grand juries, would address some of the recommendations of a grand jury task force. The group was charged with seeking ways to maintain public trust and confidence in the grand jury system.

Other topics covered in her remarks included three recent rules adopted by the Supreme Court to increase access to justice and a continued push for judges to spread the word about Judicial Votes Count, a statewide partnership to place more information online in one place about judicial candidates so Ohio voters can make informed decisions at the ballot box.

View the entire speech.

Image of a person's hand dropping a ballot into a voting box with the phrase: 'On the ballot, you're the judge. Get to know all your judicial candidates.'