Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

New Legislators Gain Insights on Justices’ Role in Interpreting Laws

Before Ohio’s newest legislators officially begin their terms at the Statehouse next month, they were welcomed to their new roles by a member of Ohio’s top tier in the judiciary: the Supreme Court.

Justice Judith French spoke before dozens of recently-elected state representatives and senators at a luncheon hosted by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

“I’m increasingly aware that there’s a lot to learn and that there are a lot of good people around who are going to help me along the way,” said Mary Lightbody, a teacher of 26 years who won the state House of Representatives’ 19th district seat representing northeast Franklin County.

Justice French was part of the General Assembly’s orientation in downtown Columbus to shed light on the judiciary’s duty in the governmental balance with lawmakers and the executive branch.

“We use phrases like separation of power and checks and balances, but for me, and now you, those phrases have real meaning,” said Justice French.

More specifically, she explained the responsibility she shares with the other six members of the Court when it comes to handling cases that question the law.

“In the end, my role as a justice is to interpret the words that you all are about to write and not second-guess the work that you’ve done,” said Justice French.

It was helpful information to Lightbody and the other politicians who don’t have a legal background.

“Being aware of how judges look at the words, need clarity in those words, is a good lesson to have,” she said.

Along with hearing about recent cases that involved the balance of power between the branches and constitutional issues, the lawmakers were informed about arguably the biggest problem impacting Ohio’s courts – equal access to justice.

“Only legislative action can fill the gaps in funding for legal aid efforts, and only legislative changes can fix current laws that harm low-income families the most,” Justice French added.

It’s one of several issues many in the judicial branch hope the legislature will play a part in solving.

“We appreciate your roles as our partners as we bring justice to the people of Ohio,” Justice French said.