Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Employee Recognition Ceremony
Feb. 28, 2017

Each year we gather at this ceremony to review what we accomplished during the prior year. Each year I am even more impressed than the last.

I will address those accomplishments in a minute, but the Court, as you know, is much more than “what” we do. The “who” matters just as much.

2016 had its share of comings and goings among staff.

We said goodbye to two Justices and 18 colleagues from around the Court who retired.

We welcomed 25 new employees.

And we grieved with our Law Library colleagues as two members of their staff – Di Taveira and Diana Mercer – lost long-time battles with cancer.

Despite the upheaval, the work of the Court soldiered on.

We continued to educate judges and court personnel about appropriate financial sanctions and obligations that can be levied in court.

We hosted delegations from nine states for a first-of-its-kind regional judicial opioid initiative.

We sought to maintain the public’s trust and confidence in grand juries through recommendations from a task force.

Our work in 2016 also returned to a familiar theme: Access to Justice.

Several rules took effect to enact recommendations contained in the Access to Justice task force report.

A new emeritus pro bono rule makes it possible and encourages older Ohio attorneys to give back.

An increase in out-of-state attorney registration fees will help fund legal aid services.

A voluntary “add-on” fee to the biennial attorney registration also will help fund legal aid services.

Other areas of focus in 2016 waded into the waters of hot-button issues.

A rule amendment clarified ethical responsibilities of lawyers under the state’s new medical marijuana law.

Gender-neutral terms within Ohio Supreme Court rules and forms took effect in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage case.

A rule amendment mandated that local courts adopt rules to regulate the shackling of children appearing in court proceedings with a presumption against shackling.

Still other accomplishments speak to the central mission of our work – the fair administration of justice – and in maintaining the special environment in which we work.

Over the last three months of the year, 100 opinions were voted off, written, edited, and published.

The Ohio Courts Network completed connecting the remaining local courts who possessed the necessary technology.

The Judicial College celebrated its 40th anniversary.

We improved our building and its envrions.

Cracked and uneven marble along the Front Street entrance was replaced with new sidewalks of charcoal-colored pavers.

The new and improved Employee Fitness Center featured new equipment, freshly painted walls, newly built shelves, a TV, and inspirational quotes. We held the grand re-opening on “Fat Tuesday,” by the way.

We even survived the Pokemon Go craze after we learned the Court was a PokeStop. At least the fountains were dry last year, otherwise our “guests” might have stayed longer.

Hand in hand with the work are your efforts to improve morale, increase collegiality, and support each other.

Once again, our Wellness and Employee Events committees stepped up. For example:

The Wellness Committee held a series of lunchtime wellness walks, inspired us to climb in the StairWELL to Health challenge, created a putt-putt course in honor of men’s health month, and offered us Tasty Treats and Healthy Eats.

The EEC sold tickets to Wing Madness, Fiesta in the Sun, Plaza Palooza, and Columbus Day pizza sale events to raise $700 for the Court’s two designated charities: Pilot Dogs Inc. and the Homeless Families Foundation. The EEC also organized Food Truck Food Court lunches, volunteer opportunities, and the holiday party.

But perhaps the best example of your giving spirit is the way you responded to a colleague in need after a June fire destroyed the home of Bobby Brown and his family. Not only did you donate clothing, furniture, household items, cookware, and toys, but you helped raise $4,265 for their Go Fund Me page, which surpassed the stated $3,000 goal.

To be sure, we all know that we work in a special place. But the art and architecture within these walls only provides an incredible setting. You are what makes the difference. Your daily pursuit to increase access for justice, to be fair and thoughtful, and to eclipse every wrong-headed notion of what it means to be a state worker are what sets this place apart. Thank you for that, keep up the good work, and God bless.