Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

All Smiles for Pioneering Chief Justice Farewell

Hundreds of supporters gathered recently to celebrate Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s historic leadership of the state judiciary, her impact, and legacy.  

Family, friends, and peers joined judges, lawyers, and court staff to honor Chief Justice O’Connor for the dedication of her portrait at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.

“I did not set out on my journey to be chief justice of the Supreme Court, but service is in my DNA, and my education, my hard work, and my opportunities along the way brought me here,” said Chief Justice O’Connor.

The first woman chief justice led the charge on complex problems throughout her tenure including bail reform, the opioid crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent documentary – Raising the Bar: The Maureen O’Connor Years – details her work to improve the judicial system. The chief justice attacked some of the biggest problems through collaboration, including diverse groups of people to ensure fairness and access to justice for all Ohioans.

“Fair and compassionate, the two things that are all-too-often overlooked in an incredible leader and servant,” said Pierce Reed, the chief justice’s former senior judicial attorney.

Former Governor Bob Taft called her a “model” public servant for her dedication to public service which led her to work tirelessly on many fronts in Ohio and nationally.

“I think the chief saw it as her responsibility to push government, to push courts, to push others to think about other ways of doing better, and equally importantly, being better,” said Michael Buenger, the Court’s former administrative director.

“She didn’t ever have the fear to do the right thing,” said former Governor John Kasich, “She’s a great lady.”

Chief justices of Supreme Courts of Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan were in the gallery as the cloth came down to reveal the portrait of a smiling Chief Justice O’Connor standing casually leaning on the bench as if she could walk right out of the painting.

The first woman chief justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice O’Connor has worked on behalf of the people longer than any statewide elected woman in Ohio history. She is also the first to retire from the position, having reached the age limit of the constitution. Through all her firsts, she was most recognized for including others who did not have a voice in the justice system and beyond.

“She will be missed. But with her portrait, we’ll have a visible reminder of the legacy she leaves, not just for girls, but for all people who believe in justice and fairness,” said former Justice Yvette McGee Brown, the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

The portrait, painted by internationally renowned portrait artist Paul Wyse, is the first artwork featuring a woman, on display in the Grand Concourse of the Moyer Judicial Center.

Representing the Moyer Commission, Fine Arts Chair Justin Nigro said, “she is a historic figure in Ohio – just as the men represented by the bas reliefs and portrait – and who are currently on display in the Grand Concourse. She will be the first woman. And the Grand Concourse is a place of firsts.”

“I’m honored to be the first woman … and we know I will not be the last,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “The doors have been opened. Those who follow deserve to know how and when we got here.”

The chief justice credits her parents with giving her the foundation for her many accomplishments. Now, she’s looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren, traveling, and is excited for the next chapter with new adventures and more opportunities to serve others.

“I want to exercise my curiosity and see what’s around the corner. That curiosity has gotten me where I am today, and it will not fail me in the years to come,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “I leave with a grateful heart, an eye on the future, and a smile on my face.”