Lynn Bart Griffith
b. Oct. 30, 1886
d. July 18, 1978
119th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio
Term
1962 to 1964

LYNN BART GRIFFITH

Lynn Bart Griffith, friend of famous legal and political figures Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, saw his extensive legal and judicial service rewarded with appointment to the Supreme Court of Ohio by Gov. Michael V. DiSalle in October 1962. Justice Griffith was the first from Trumbull County to serve on the high court since Justice William T. Spear left the Court in January 1913. No one from Trumbull County has served on the Supreme Court since.

Griffith was born on his family’s farm in West Farmington, Ohio on Oct. 30, 1886 to Herbert F. and Lovira Snyder Griffith. Griffith attended the Oberlin Academy and Oberlin College, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1910. Following graduation, he entered Western Reserve University Law School and earned his law degree in 1914. Griffith was admitted to the Ohio bar that year and began private practice in Warren.

In 1925, Griffith became Warren City Solicitor and remained in that post through 1926. From 1927 to 1928, he served as Warren County prosecuting attorney. An inexperienced prosecutor, Griffith faced Trumbull County native Clarence Darrow in a criminal case of bribery that involved a City of Warren racketeer. Griffith commented to the Youngstown Vindicator in an interview that he felt Darrow had the case won by the time the jury was seated. The trial ended, however, in a hung jury. After the trial, Griffith noted that Darrow would later stop and visit the Griffith family farm on his trips through Trumbull County.

Griffith considered himself a political progressive and counted William Jennings Bryan among his friends. Bryan’s last visit to Trumbull County came shortly after the Scopes Trial in 1925 when he spent the night at the Griffith family farm. William Jennings Bryan died a few days after his visit with the Griffiths.

In 1930, Griffith successfully campaigned for judge of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas. He held a judgeship on this court’s bench for the next 20 years. In 1950, Griffith was appointed to fill an unexpired term for a seat on the 7th District Court of Appeals of Ohio by Gov. Frank J. Lausche. Griffith won re-election in 1954 and 1960. In 1962, his fellow appellate judges elected him chief judge of Ohio’s courts of appeals.

On Oct. 8, 1962, a few days after Griffith’s election as chief judge, Gov. Michael V. DiSalle appointed him to replace Supreme Court Justice James F. Bell, who resigned. Because the appointment came less than 30 days before the November 1962 general election, Griffith was not obliged to run for election until November 1964. Griffith campaigned unsuccessfully for election as Justice of the Supreme Court that year, losing to the Ohio tax commissioner, Republican Louis J. Schneider.

The combined cases of Hudson Distributors Inc. v. The Upjohn Co. (1963) and Hudson Distributors Inc. v. Eli Lilly & Co. (1963) represent one opinion written by Justice Griffith. The two cases dealt with Ohio’s Fair Trade Act (1959), which governed the pricing of trademarked goods sold in Ohio and the practice of a discounter (Hudson Distributors Inc.) selling trademarked merchandise below the manufacturer’s recommended price. In both cases, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas found that Ohio’s Fair Trade Act was unconstitutional. The 8th District Court of Appeals of Ohio reversed the decision of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and upheld the constitutionality of the law.

Griffith’s opinion agreed with the appellate court that the Fair Trade Act was constitutional. However, only two Justices agreed with him; the other four issued a dissenting opinion finding the act unconstitutional. Because only four Justices agreed with the decision of the common pleas court, the appeals court decision was upheld.  

In January 1965, Griffith left the high court and returned to private practice in Warren with the firm Letson, Griffith, Knightlinger and Woodall. He remained active with the firm until his death in Warren on July 18, 1978. Funeral services were at Warren’s First Presbyterian Church where Justice Griffith served as an elder and Sunday school teacher.

Griffith married Stata Morton Miller Griffith on Sept. 9, 1916. They had three children.