Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Ohio Courts of Appeals Judges Association Fall Meeting Luncheon
Sept. 12, 2018

(Remarks prepared for delivery on Wednesday Sept. 12, 2018, at the Hilton at Easton.)

Good afternoon, everyone.

I’d like to start with a matter that is of great importance to everyone in this room, and that’s Issue One.

I hope every one of you received my statement on this, and as you know, I rarely engage with matters that appear on the ballot.

Issue 1 is different.  I see it as our duty to speak out on matters that affects the administration of justice, especially when it has the potential for negative consequences ...

Issue One would be a disaster for the state of Ohio.

I cannot say this strongly enough, this proposed constitution amendment would be a debacle in our ongoing fight to curtail the drug epidemic.

It would result in the most lenient drug crime laws in the country.

I can also tell you that this would encourage drug dealers who sell fentanyl to flock to our state.

We know how powerful and deadly fentanyl is.

Look no further to the news a few weeks ago, when 29 people at the Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe were rushed to the hospital after being exposed to a combination of heroin and fentanyl.

Of those 29 ... 27 were guards.

We are seeing this situation in the news daily.

First responders are being hospitalized.

As mentioned in my letter, .2 milligrams will kill and just under 20 grams, a misdemeanor amount could kill 10,000 people.

Issue One would allow that person responsible to get away with a misdemeanor.

The problem doesn’t end there.

We have seen the great work our 240 specialized docket courts, including 167 drug courts, are doing in fighting the opioid crisis.

This issue would tear down all the great work we do in the drug courts. Addicts WILL NOT go to drug courts if there is no threat of jail time.

They just won’t. There will be no incentive for them to do so.

My hope here today is to encourage you, as judges, to speak up on Issue One.

We know the consequences of Issue One better than anyone. When we all get on board and tell voters that this is a losing proposition, we can succeed.

Please, spread the word.

Now on a more positive note, I would like to thank the OCAJA for inviting me today and allowing me the honor to swear in your new officers.

Before doing so I want to recognize Judge Mark Pietrykowski, who will move from Chief to become Past Chief Judge. Judge Pietrykowski, thank you for your service and wise counsel.

So, I would like to recognize the 2019 Officers and invite them up.

The new Chief Judge, Frank Daniel Celebrezze, Jr. of the Eighth District.

Chief Judge-Elect, Judge William A. Klatt of the Tenth District.

Secretary, Judge Cynthia Westcott Rice of the Eleventh District.

Treasurer, Judge Craig Baldwin of the Fifth District.

And Past Chief Judge Mark Pietrykowski of the Sixth District.

I [state your name] do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, Constitution of the State of Ohio and the Constitution and By-Laws of the Ohio Courts of Appeals Judges Association, and that I will faithfully perform all the duties incumbent upon me in the office of ______________________, to which I have been elected.
So help me God.


As you know, I will deliver the State of the Judiciary address tomorrow.

I will talk about several long-term problems we face as a society and judiciary.

I will go into more detail on Issue One and what we can do to help fight this together.

Speaking of the opioid crisis, I will focus on all the amazing work our drug courts are doing to help people in their treatment and recovery. Right now, nobody, I mean nobody, does more day-in and day-out to fight the opioid crisis than the judges.

And we, in Ohio, do in right.

These courts cannot exist without the use of medical-assisted treatment and I will talk tomorrow on how judges, need this crucial component to assist addicts in their recovery. I’m proud that Ohio spearheaded the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative two years ago.

In that short period of time, we are making great strides.

In addition to the opioid problem, I will also address some of the challenges we face in the judiciary.

Erosion of public trust, just might be, next to opioids,  is our biggest challenge.

I also wanted to make you aware of several courses that the Ohio Judicial College is working on that you can benefit from.

We have a new sexual harassment prevention course that we are working on.

Sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form.

Please look for that course.

Another course you can take advantage of is a bail reform course that we just rolled out.

You know how I feel on this issue.

Fines, fees and bail practices are crying out for reform.

We have been making progress on that front, but so much more needs to be done.

I’m very proud of the work done on this subject by the CCJ/COSCA Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail. I co-chair that task force.

I’m happy to say many jurisdictions in the country are rethinking their methods, thanks to the work of the Task Force and other organization that specifically target the injustice of past practices.

With that I will allow you to continue your meeting. I want to thank you for this opportunity to swear in your new officers, to thank them for their leadership and to speak with you.

God bless.