Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Employee Recognition Ceremony
April 10, 2018

(Remarks prepared for delivery on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.)

Thank you Mike.

Good afternoon, everyone.

It’s nice to see a packed house.

This event is one of the highlights of the year for this Court and for you, the staff….and for me, of course.

My job takes me to many places during the year, and to many speaking events. Wherever I go, I talk about the outstanding staff of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

It’s easy for me to say this to people because it’s so true.

This staff shows its brilliance in new ways every day.

I am so very proud of all of you. I try to deliver the message of your dedication without seeming boastful to those outside the Court. Frankly, reining in the boastfulness can be a bit of a challenge.

That’s my way of saying – sincerely – that I am proud of you and so appreciative of what you do, day in and day out, for this Court and for the people of the state of Ohio.

So, thank you for your diligence and your creativity.

And thank you for working in many ways that support our vision for the Court, which tells us ... “... to administer justice with integrity and provide leadership for the Judicial Branch of Ohio government.”

That, in essence, is what you do, every day. Justice. Integrity. And Leadership.

2017 was a remarkable year for the Court – and a great one in many new ways.

We began the year by welcoming two newly elected Justices in January.

We said goodbye to two (2) colleagues on our staff who retired: Lee Ann Ward and Rosco Mayes.

We welcomed 36 new employees to work with us in our magnificent building.

We were busy improving our skills and helping each other improve.

Five Court employees achieved their Court Management Credentials in 2017. That brings to 20 the number of Court staff who are certified as Court Managers or Court Executives.

This program brought hundreds of court employees from around our state and into the fold of those with leveled-up court administrative skills.

I don’t have to remind any of you that we’re so busy as a Court because society is changing. Last year, for example, we certified seven (7) court interpreters, bringing to 104 the number around our state.

Our Children & Families Section released two new tool kits to help juvenile courts and child welfare staff assess best practices.

Last year, during National Library Week, we paid tribute to America’s law librarians – including our own on the 11th Floor — who handled more than 10,000 research requests.

We look after each other, too ...

Our Event Committee each year holds New Employee Day, Plaza Palooza, the March Madness get-together and other events where we can get to know each other better and have some fun.

Take Your Child to Work Day welcomed more than 30 children.

Our Wellness Committee added more equipment to the Fitness Center and upgraded the locker rooms.

And, the Wellness group continued with fun and healthy activities, including the hot chocolate warm up, spring wellness walks, the Wear Red event and weekly yoga.

Their holiday stress-relieving chair massages in December sold out fast. I hope that means you were seeking the health benefits of a massage – and weren’t truly stressed out en masse!

There was lots of Court work, of course ...

Off-Site Court visited Morgan County for the first time in the spring and – in the fall – returned to its roots in Marietta for the 30th anniversary of the program.

The off-site sessions were among 23 oral argument days in 2017, covering 91 cases.

The Court created the Civil Justice Program Fund to provide direct civil legal assistance for Ohioans in need of housing, health care and economic security.

And we continued to speak out on access to justice issues, including our calls for – and work towards – reforms in the fines, fees and bail systems.

The Judicial College had a standout year.

The total number of participants educated by the college last year reached 22,818.

That included more than 10,000 who took advantage of our growing offerings of online courses. There were 204 online courses available last year.

Here’s another outstanding statistic: the Judicial College educated 7,463 Adult Guardians in 2017.

And the College launched a revamped website for judges, attorneys, guardians and others ... called OhioCourtEDU.

Our quest for the judiciary to build bridges across government branches and with non-governmental groups to fight the opioid crisis made progress last year.

We announced support for prescription drug database access for drug courts, a plan that was implemented and is working.

Certification of new drug courts raised our total to 102 before the year ended.

Ohio is one of only 19 states with a drug court certification process. Ours includes compliance standards and site visits by our staff and has become a model elsewhere across the country.

Our Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative – which is now a bit over a year and a half old and encompasses eight states – continues to make progress by knocking down bureaucratic walls and forging alliances among states and border counties.

Now, there’s a national opioid initiative working on the problem. The Conference of Chief Justices, of which I’m proud to serve as president, and the Conference of State Court Administrators, formed a national task force last year patterned after our regional effort.  

Overall, we certified 24 new specialized docket courts in 2017, boosting the total to 225 by year’s end – in more than a dozen categories.

And the Specialized Dockets conference hosted by the Court drew more than 500 court personnel.

The range of services that you perform always surprises people, even those who keep a close eye on government.

Examples from 2017 include:

Our dispute resolution function held 345 mediation sessions.

Court security reviewed the safety of 17 court locations and held 11 training sessions.

Civic Education hosted more than 13,000 student visitors from Ohio.

We also unveiled Eye in the Sky, a new display in our Civic Education area.

Justices and staff welcomed many visitors, including graduate students, teachers, attorneys and judges from South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Niger, Zambia, Congo, Burundi, Ghana, Swaziland, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Pakistan, India and Iceland.

Yes, 2017 was a year to remember.

And you were the ones who made it all work.

And now, I would like to turn the program over to Mike, who will present our employee service awards.

Mike ...

We have no 25- or 30-year awards this year, but we do want to honor a colleague who no longer is with us – and who worked with us and started her 35th year... Pam Wynsen.  

In the gospels of Saint Mark you will find many references to light ... admonitions to let one’s light shine ... to share one’s light with others ...

Deputy Reporter Pam Wynsen – who passed away in February – shared her light – with her friends, with her family, and with her co-workers. 

The tributes to Pam published in our employee Bulletin and spoken in our hallways and offices were heartfelt.

Her dedication to our language was summed up by one of her colleagues as “incredible style.”

Pam’s institutional knowledge ... and her willingness to happily share her insights ... and her light ... was appreciated so much.

This statement from a colleague caught my eye: “Even when Pam’s health was not the best during the last few years, she was adamant that she should not be exempt from doing her share of the office workload.”

Her baked goods and her wit were also much loved and appreciated by her teammates.

Pam will be missed.

I thought this meeting of staff, where we salute excellence, would be the proper place to honor Pam with a presentation to her many family members, who have joined us today.

This memorial plaque states:

“Pam stood out because of her superior skills, mastery of the English language, and dedication to ensuring the quality of the written opinions of the Court.

This tribute also notes her patience and kindness.

On behalf of the Court and our Justices, I would like to present this memorial plaque to Pam’s family.

This memorial is a small but earnest token of love for your [sister] and all that she accomplished ... and for the light that she shared with us.

And now, I would like to turn the program back over to Mike, as we present the remainder of our awards.

Mike ...