Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Justice French Welcomes, Educates Ohio Dominican Students about the Supreme Court

With the school year in full swing, that means thousands of students will explore the confines of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center where they will not only receive a history lesson, but get an education in law.

On Tuesday, criminal justice students from Ohio Dominican University (ODU) experienced a crash course from one of the state’s most accomplished legal experts: Supreme Court Justice Judith French.

“I’m really glad you're here. Thank you for taking the time to come here. This is your court,” Justice French told the 30 students and their professor inside the Courtroom.

The former appellate court judge discussed her background and her path to Ohio’s high court, while also describing the state judiciary’s structure.

“As a student who wants to have a high position in the courtroom, it was just really cool to be in the presence of someone and know that it was possible,” said ODU student Makayla Downour.

The budding legal minds also heard a detailed explanation about what happens behind the scenes from the time justices receive requests for the Court to hear appeals to the moment a decision is made on a case.

“We sit in order of seniority, and we speak in order of seniority. And when that’s done, we vote in reverse order. So, if you’re the junior justice you have to vote first,” Justice French said.

With a significant November election only weeks away, including two open seats on the Supreme Court, the idea of liberal and conservative judges surfaced. It was a misnomer Justice French was quick to clarify.

“Being a social conservative is very different from a judicial conservative. A judicial conservative is somebody who conserves resources, who conserves power of the court. My philosophy is I’m going to let the [legislature’s] decision to pass a law stand, and I’m just going to interpret it very narrowly,” she said.

Given that judges in Ohio are elected, the positions come with the inherent responsibility of a public servant. Whether it’s speaking to visitors or presiding over cases that have the greatest impact on the state, Justice French recognizes and embraces her role to interpret and uphold the law.

“Hearing her with such a strong commitment to public service and the broader good of Ohio, that goes along with Ohio Dominican. That’s one of the major themes that we look at in our series is the common good and what’s the idea of the common good, what’s the public interest,” said ODU professor Sonya Goshe.

While most of the students are still pondering their prospects as potential lawyers, at least one felt right at home thanks to the justice and the tour.

“Being here, it feels like this is a place where I belong, both as a citizen and a future justice. So, I can't wait to get into the field now,” said student Dominique Washington.