Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Morgan County Off-Site Court
April 6, 2017


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

Because we have a limited amount of time with you, I will introduce each of my colleagues briefly in seniority order and then move right into the question-and-answer session.

I am the first woman to be Ohio’s chief justice and have been since 2011. I was a justice starting in 2003. Before that I served as a magistrate, a trial judge, a prosecuting attorney and then Lt. Gov. 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 first elected to the Supreme Court in 2012. Previously, she served on the Butler County Domestic Relations Court.

Justice Judith French served on the Tenth District Court of Appeals before her appointment to the Supreme Court in 2012.

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

Justice Pat Fischer is one of two new justices who are experiencing off-site court for the first time. Justice Fischer joined the Supreme Court in January after his election last year. He served on the First District Court of Appeals.

Justice Pat DeWine is the other new member, also having been elected in 2016 and also from the First District Court of Appeals.

With that, let’s turn it over to you. Who has the first question?



Good morning. We are delighted to be here in Morgan County for today’s oral arguments. This is our first time visiting.

As our viewers have probably noticed, we are not in a courtroom. We are holding oral arguments today in the auditorium at Morgan High School.

The goal of the off-site court program is to teach students a little more about the judicial system. So holding court on a high school campus not only makes a lot of sense, but we have a captive audience to boot.

Thanks to Superintendent Lori Snyder-Lowe, Principal Anita Eldridge, and Assistant Principal Paul Bailey for making arrangements to use the auditorium as a temporary courtroom today.

Thanks as well to Morgan County Common Pleas Court Judge Dan Favreau for inviting the Supreme Court and Robert Christie, president of the Morgan County Bar Association, for welcoming us.

I also want to recognize Morgan County’s other judge, who serves on the county court, Judge Michael Lowe.

The judges that serve on the Fifth District Court of Appeals, which includes Morgan County, are: Craig Baldwin, Patricia Delaney, Scott Gwin, William Hoffman, Earle Wise Jr., and John Wise.

We have three cases on the docket today and Morgan County High School students will attend each of the oral arguments. Welcome students. Thanks for being here.



Thank you Judge (Favreau) for that introduction and for the invitation to host the Supreme Court.

Anytime we take our show on the road there are many people within the host community that make it possible.

First, we are grateful to several members of the Morgan school community for overseeing all the arrangements associated with our temporary takeover of the auditorium this morning. They include:

Morgan Local School District Superintendent Lori Snyder-Lowe, Morgan High School Principal Anita Eldridge, and Assistant Principal Paul Bailey.

Others deserve recognition for their efforts to explain to high schoolers the legal concepts presented in court today. Members of the local bar served as attorney-educators, including Judge Favreau, Judge Lowe, Morgan County Bar Association President Robert Christie, and attorneys John Christie, William Creighton, Mark Howdyshell, Richard Ross, and John Wells. Thank you.

We have also had outstanding support from local law enforcement with providing security for this event, including: Morgan County Sheriff Douglas McGrath, McConnellsville Police Chief Troy Copeland, Ohio State Highway Patrol Staff Lt. Steven Rine with district headquarters in Cambridge, Lt. Chris Chesar with Marietta Post 84, and Noble County Sheriff Robert Pickenpaugh.

I also want to recognize three people from the Supreme Court: Civic Education Coordinator Sara Stiffler, Marshal Bill Crawford, and Security Services Coordinator Ryan Fahle for all their work to make this visit go smoothly.

In addition, our partners at Ohio Government Television deserve recognition for ensuring the broadcast of oral arguments went off without a hitch.

I have one final shout-out. Also with us today are Washington County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Williams and Court Administrator Rae Ward. They joined us to get an idea of how off-site court works. Washington County, which hosted our first off-site court 30 years ago, will do it again in the fall for our 30th anniversary. Thank you for coming.

Each time we visit a county for off-site court, it’s interesting to look back in history to see how the local justice system operated. Here is what we found.

Nearly to the day 198 years ago, (April 5, 1819) the first term of court was held here in McConnelsville in a log cabin south of Main Street.

Later in 1819, a Morgan County grand jury returned its first indictment against Enoch Loper for assault and battery. This case also marked the first time a petit jury was empaneled.

The jury retired to deliberate and was instructed that it couldn’t have anything to eat or drink – expect water – until it reached a verdict. Talk about motivation to come to a quick resolution!

Not surprisingly, the jurors soon found common ground and also found Loper guilty. He was assessed a $3 fine and costs.

So we learned a little about the 19th century court system. What about the bar? The historical sketch has that covered too.

“Morgan County is small, both in territory and in population; the people are of a peaceful disposition and averse to litigation, consequently there has never been a large amount of legal business.”

That must be true to this day, as I understand that the eight members of the local bar mainly practice in neighboring counties.

Perhaps the most fascinating story we uncovered concerns prisoner accommodations back in the day.

Between 1833 and 1839, prisoners who were convicted of rioting, larceny, and adultery were housed in a dungeon near the courthouse beneath the basement of the old jail.

The 11-foot-high, 5-foot-wide, 12-foot-long stone vault was rediscovered in 1964 during the construction of the sheriff’s office and jail.

Local residents know that the dungeon can still be visited today as it was moved from its original site to Main Street in Malta adjacent to the Rock Hollow School.

With that, I’ll turn over the program to my colleagues starting with Justice Terrence O’Donnell.

(Introduce the remaining justices in seniority order.)

Thank you Justice DeWine and to all my colleagues.

Thank you again Judge Favreau and the Morgan County Bar Association for the warm welcome.

That concludes our off-site court program. Thank you for your hospitality. We hope you return the favor by visiting our beautiful building in downtown Columbus. You won’t regret it. God bless.