Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Washington County Off-Site Court 30th Anniversary Event
Oct. 18, 2017


Good morning, students, teachers, staff and guests.

I’m Maureen O’Connor, Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Time is limited so I’m going to proceed with the introduction of my colleagues in order of seniority, and then get right to the Q & A.

I am the 10th chief justice in Ohio and the first woman to have this honor. I was elected last year to my second six-year term. I was a justice starting in 2003, and before that I served as a magistrate, a trial judge, a prosecuting attorney, then lieutenant governor and director of the Department of Public Safety.

Justice Terrence O’Donnell served on the Eighth District Court of Appeals and the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court before his appointment to the Supreme Court in 2003.

Justice Sharon Kennedy was elected to her first full term in 2014. Previously, she served on the Butler County Domestic Relations Court.

Justice Judith French was elected to her first full term in 2014 and before that she was a judge on the Tenth District Court of Appeals.

Justice William O’Neill began his term in January 2013 and he served on the Eleventh District Court of Appeals.

Justice Pat Fischer became a Justice this year after his election last fall. He served on the First District Court of Appeals.

Justice Pat DeWine also started his term this year and he also comes from the First District Court of Appeals.



Good morning everyone.

We are delighted to be here -- in historic Washington County.

We’re making some history of our own today because this is the 30th anniversary of a great Ohio tradition that began right here in Marietta.

In 1987, the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and his fellow Justices created Off-Site Court.

Marietta was chosen because that year was the 200th anniversary, the bicentennial, of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It was also the bicentennial of our U.S. Constitution.

And as all of you know, Marietta was the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. A mural honoring Marietta and its settlers holds a place of high honor in our Courtroom in Columbus.

That first Off-Site Court 30 years ago was held in the Washington County Courthouse. Since then, 68 of our 88 counties have hosted the Supreme Court’s oral arguments.

More than 30,000 students have observed oral arguments and have had the chance to interact with Justices, attorneys and court staff.

Washington County today becomes the fifth county to host our Court more than once. Next April, we will take our session to Putnam County for the first time.

We moved Off-Site Court from courthouses to high schools to get students and teachers more involved in learning about  the judicial system.

We have students and faculty from seven high schools and two career centers with us today.

I would like to give a special thanks to our host Principal, Chad Rinard and Assistant Principal Chris Laumann for seeing to it that this auditorium could be transformed into a courtroom.

I want to recognize Judge Timothy Williams of the Probate-Juvenile Court here, Common Pleas Judges Randall Burnworth and Mark Kerenyi….and Judge Janet Dyar Welch of the Marietta Municipal Court. And a special thanks to the Washington County Bar Association.

I want to acknowledge the judges from the Fourth District Court of Appeals: Peter Abele, William Harsha, Marie Hoover and Matthew McFarland.

A special shout-out is in order for the director of Judicial & Court Services at the Supreme Court – Milt Nuzum – who served as Municipal Court judge here in Marietta for 13 years. Milt is very proud of his hometown – and we’re very proud of Milt and his staff.

We have three cases on the docket today.
Students from Marietta High School and Waterford High School will attend the first case.

Students from Frontier High, Warren High, the Washington County Juvenile Center and Veritas Classical Academy will be here for the second case.

And for the final case we will have students from Belpre High, Fort Frye High and the Washington County Career Center.


Thank you, Judge (Timothy) Williams, for that nice introduction.

And thank you all for hosting us today.

If you’re an Ohioan and you know your history, then the word History and the name Marietta are synonymous.

We’re happy to be back in Marietta, where this program began.

Off-Site Court complements our Civic Education Department. We host 13,000 students and teachers each year at the Court as part of our educational efforts. Off-Site Court is and will remain a centerpiece of those efforts.

There’s always so many people to thank when we take our robes on the road.

I’ll start with Marietta City Schools Superintendent  William Hampton, Principal Chad Rinard and Assistant Principal Chris Laumann.

Next, is the local bar. To President Craig Wakefield, thanks to your organization.

We have had tremendous help from law enforcement – to set things up and keep us safe. They include the deputies and officers who work for Sheriff Larry Mincks, City Police Chief Rodney Hupp…and the troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

We have several of our own people to thank – including the marshal of the Court, Bill Crawford, Security Services Coordinator Ryan Fahle, the head of our Civic Education Section, Sara Stiffler…and the Court’s in-house staff from our Ohio Government Telecommunications studio.

And one final recognition – to Judge Michael Borer of the Probate-Juvenile Court in Putnam County, which will host our next Off-Site Court in April.

History is always an important part of our road show and Marietta and Washington County is, literally, where Ohio begins.

One historian writes that when a temporary government was installed in 1987 laws were enacted to go with it.

This “set of laws was passed and published by being nailed to a tree in the village” for everyone to see.

That gives Marietta a claim to being an early practitioner of social media – such as it was back then.

I also discovered that Return J. Meigs, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, who took office in 1803, apparently was forced against his will into holding offsite court.

According to the Washington County Historical Society: “Mr. Meigs was elected chief justice of the Supreme Court, which consisted of three judges. This situation was at that time difficult, as he was required to hold court in every county in the State once a year.”

Chief Justice Meigs did this for more than a year when a military commandant post in Louisiana became open and he took it because it was “a position more congenial to his tastes.”

 Well, he didn’t have a beautiful building for his Court back then. And he apparently didn’t have kindly hosts – like you – for this early version of Off-Site Court.

So, with that, I will turn it over to six other Justices who, like me, are very happy to be on the road – and with you.

I’ll start with Justice Terrence O’Donnell ….

(The remaining Justices come up to speak, one by one in order of seniority.)

Thank you, Justice DeWine, and thank you to all of my colleagues.

Thank you again, Judge Williams – and the Washington County Bar Association – for sharing your hospitality and your history with us today.

That concludes our Off-Site Court program.

We hope we can return the cordiality by hosting you for a tour at our unique and beautiful building in downtown Columbus.

We would love to have you there.

God Bless.