Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Putnam County Students Watch Justices in Action at Off-Site Court

Hundreds of Putnam County students watched the 75th edition of Ohio Supreme Court oral arguments when the Court’s Off-Site program visited Ottawa.

But first, students got the chance to ask questions of the seven justices to get to know them better.

“What is the most interesting case you’ve ever heard?” asked one student. “Is there a case that has affected you the most?”

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor gave the students some insight.

“There’s no more serious case to deal with than a death penalty case,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “I think all my colleagues would agree. We make the decision but it’s not over when we make the decision. They linger with you. Death penalty cases, they linger.”

The justices also explained all the research and homework they have to do to prepare for a case.

“In my chambers, I have three lawyers who work for me,” Justice Terrence O’Donnell said. “So each one of them have been assigned one of the cases. They prepare what I call a bench memo, which is a synopsis of what the arguments are.”

Sometimes, the justices admit, they may not agree with a staffer’s view.

“There are a couple of cases today where I’m not in agreement with one of my law clerks,” Justice Judith French said. “So we really had to debate about the legal issues already.”

The students, who might never have seen the justices if they hadn’t visited them, were grateful for the Off-Site opportunity.

“This is an amazing experience,” Senior Rachel Schnipke said. “I’ve always been interested in the law. I don’t think I can go into it because I can’t argue that well.  I took street law last year and it’s one of my favorite classes.”

The students also got to know the justices’ personalities.

“They are very down-to-earth people,” student Joel Ellerbrock said. “We escorted them to their robe fitting and they were very nice people. You can have a conversation with them just like an everyday person.”

The justices offered some words of hope and inspiration.

“Ladies and gentleman, the world is yours,” Justice Sharon Kennedy said. “You are at an age and time when you can do anything. You have to decide, commit, work hard, have fortitude, and surround yourself with what I had, great mentors. Surround yourselves with great friends and peers. When somebody tells you that you can’t be successful, that’s just noise in the background.”

Senior Kadie Hempfling left the Q & A session with a new attitude.

“I learned that if you have only one path, you might not stay on that path your whole life,” Hempfling said.

“What Justice Kennedy said, I took that to heart. You may have to take the road less traveled to get where you want to be. I think that’s what society needs today. Maybe you are the only one going down that path, but it’s the best path for you. Just take it.”