Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
National Association of Trial Lawyers Executives
July 23, 2017

Thank you John (Van Doorn, Director of Government Affairs, Ohio Association for Justice) for that introduction and for your invitation to speak at this year’s national meeting. I love Boston, and I am particularly thrilled to be here to brag about a fellow Ohioan.

Before I get to the main event, I have a few brief remarks to share.

For more than 60 years, the strong advocacy that members of the Ohio Association for Justice provide is commendable – at the trial and appellate level, in your support for access to justice for all by providing outstanding service to clients, and for adhering to the highest standards of professionalism. Thank you for that.

I’ve had a strong working relationship with the association for years, including collaborating on issues of common concern between association members and doctors. I intend to keep the lines of communication open on a host of issues by remaining available and accessible to association concerns.

I’m sure one of those concerns is the state of the civil justice system in our country.

You are aware of the challenges: complexity, competition, delay, and cost. Combine these challenges with society’s expectations of better customer service, access to information, and technological advances and state courts may be seen as an outdated option in the face of mediation, mandatory arbitration, and private judging.

The notion that courts need to adapt is further bolstered by the findings in the annual State of State Courts poll conducted by the National Center for State Courts.

Fifty-two percent of the respondents agreed with the following statement:

“Just like any business, (state) courts must change with the times to meet the needs of their customers and to keep up with new innovations.”

Recognizing these challenges, a committee of the Conference of Chief Justices examined the issue and correctly noted that state courts simply cannot rely on past methods to administer justice.

The goal of the civil justice project is a system that is accessible, inexpensive, timely, and just.

As one example, the civil justice initiative recommends that courts develop civil case management teams to examine their business practices and eliminate bottlenecking – by delegating administrative authority to specially trained staff to make routine case management decisions.

Clearly, these changes – and others like them – cannot be implemented overnight, but a roadmap is great first step.

Over the years, I have also found invaluable the roadmap offered by the Pound Civil Justice Institute.

The national legal “think tank” is dedicated to ensuring access to justice for ordinary citizens.

I’ve been fortunate to attend multiple times the institute’s annual Forum for State Appellate Court Judges.

At the Forum, we judges mingle with legal scholars and practicing attorneys for an open conversation about major issues affecting civil justice in America. In today’s politically charged environment, isn’t that the best way to find a solution? Get everyone in a room, listen to each other’s viewpoint, and pull toward the same goal.

Setting and achieving goals is one concept that comes to mind when describing NATLE’s incoming president.

Jason Porter began his career at the Ohio Association for Justice in 2007 as Director of Development. In this position, he significantly increased the association’s revenue. No small feat given that he displayed this leadership during the Great Recession.

Jason was recently promoted to CEO at the association, in part because he designed and implemented a successful sponsorship program that dozens of trade and professional associations across the country have adopted.

Jason earned his undergraduate degrees at the Ohio State University and served in the Army National Guard, deploying to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom III.

For these reasons and many more, congratulations Jason as you step into this national leadership role. I look for great things during your time as president, and I wish you good luck.

Thank you and God bless.