Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Ninth District Court of Appeals Courtroom Dedication
Nov. 27, 2018

(Remarks prepared for delivery on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, at the Ninth District Court of Appeals in Akron, Ohio.)

Thank you, Judge Carr, for that introduction.

It’s an honor to be here with you today, as we dedicate this brand new courtroom and court offices, and open a new chapter for judges, lawyers, and court personnel who work within the Ninth District Court of Appeals.

I’m so glad to be here ... and I know you are too!

I recall appearing before the Ninth District Court of Appeals when I practiced in Summit County both as a private attorney and prosecuting attorney.

Although the former home of the Ninth District started out as adequate, like most institutions, the Court’s needs changed, the aging building was no longer adequate. The Court needed an updated structure to provide for the needs of the judges, the bar and the public.

Now you’re in a former bank. It seems to be a good, solid building.

Courtrooms should have a formal mood and character. They should be brightly lighted. That’s what I like about our Supreme Court building in Columbus.

Courtrooms also need to be in good working order – and safe.

I understand that safety was one of your motivations for seeking a different building arrangement.

I think often about the safety of judges, staff and the public. It’s a delicate balance to ensure safety and yet remain open to the public.

Court personnel can ... and do ... face threats both inside and outside the courtroom.

As you will recall, a year and a half ago a judge – Joseph Bruzzese – was ambushed and shot outside his Jefferson County courthouse.

Thankfully, he survived and has been back on the bench for some time.

But that incident served as a wakeup call for all of us.

As you know, the security office of the Supreme Court conducts comprehensive onsite safety audits of courthouses and court offices all across the state.

I’m happy to say that two members of the Supreme Court Security team – Manager John Groom and Supervisor Ryan Fahle – visited here during the set-up of your new court and offices. They were able to give advice to your architect ahead of time as the design was taking shape, saving time and money.

Onsite security is a vital service that we are happy to perform. An audit results in a booklet of suggested changes and upgrades ... as well as practices and procedures.

Our Security team follows up with court personnel and they remain on call to answer your questions and discuss your concerns.

I applaud the steps ... actually, giant leaps ... you have taken to make sure that the Ninth District is a safe haven for justice.

You have replaced a building that had unsecure entrances ... with a new space that provides only one public entrance to the building, as well as a security desk that litigants must pass before walking upstairs to the Court’s secure entrance.

The Ninth District’s security officer now has the ability to view more than a dozen cameras so he or she can monitor who is coming in ... or out ... of the building.

You have made other changes that reflect the changing nature of the judiciary.

Besides the changes you have made to deal with the changing nature of modern courthouse operations, you also made brick-and-mortar changes to better deal with the stresses of our severe winters in Northeast Ohio.

The Ocasek Building was plagued with structural problems.  Some had existed for years.

The failures of the roof that resulted in leaks as well as the on again off again operation of the heating and air conditioning system produced challenges that no one should have to address while trying to do the vital work of the Court.

Today marks a major change.

Your new court is more in sync with the changing face of justice. It is safer. And it will stand up better to the Ohio weather.

Staff, lawyers, judges, and participants will not be distracted by the problems that plagued the court in the prior location.

Now, the staff and judges will be able to focus better on the task of addressing the cases the parties bring to the court.

This new facility shall serve justice for many years to come.

I have brought with me two flags ... both from our home, the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. 

One is the Stars and Stripes ... the other the State of Ohio burgee. 

Both flew proudly at the highest court in our state.

They are the Supreme Court’s gift to all of you.

May you display both with pride as you administer justice in Northeast Ohio.

Thank you for letting me help dedicate this building.

Stay warm ... and dry ... and enjoy your new space.

God Bless.