Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
New Magistrate Orientation
March 13, 2019

Thank you, Christy, for your kind introduction.

And welcome, new magistrates, to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Congratulations for arriving at this first step on your new professional journey.

You are about to embark on a critical mission. You will be carrying out key positions in the state judiciary.

I was a probate court magistrate – not all that many years ago.

I know the challenges you will face.

Each part – managing cases, writing opinions, scheduling hearings, and more – will test you every day.

It will feel overwhelming at times.

So, I want you to know that we have a great staff here at the Court, and we are here to help.

You will meet many of these staff members while you are here the next few days.

You will receive a great deal of expert guidance.

You will learn about the authority of a magistrate and the rules of practice you must follow.

You will receive the tools you need to carry out the basics of what it takes to be a good magistrate.

These are basics that you will build upon very quickly.

For example:

You will learn how to write a reasoned and thoughtful judicial decision.

You will understand the research that’s behind that writing.

Perhaps you haven’t thought about this one – you will learn how to establish a judicial presence in the courtroom.

Seasoned judges, lawyers, and magistrates will guide you through these processes.

I have no doubt that, based on your background and sound legal judgment, you can achieve a smooth transition from the bar.

You didn’t reach this point in your careers by coincidence.

You are here because each of you possess a demonstrated track record of legal knowledge.

In addition, you are deemed trustworthy in your ability to make fair decisions.

This orientation will provide you a chance to learn the tools you need to sit on the bench.

Tomorrow, you get a chance to practice what you’ve learned.

The Ohio Judicial College has set up practice sessions led by magistrates from all over the state.

The College has done an excellent job providing you with crash courses in key and timely areas.

For example:

You will learn about your personal and courtroom security.

This is a top priority. You’ll remember the 2017 ambush shooting of Judge Joseph Bruzeese in Steubenville. He recovered well, but that incident was a wake-up call for all of us.

Another item you will learn about in this two-day conference is a major one:

How to deal with litigants who want to represent themselves.

Beyond the next couple of days of this orientation, the Judicial College offers you nearly 200 hours of education in live seminars – and online through webinars that can be accessed from your offices.

The courses are wide-ranging:

The opioid epidemic, and the ways it affects communities and families.

A webinar on the Service Members Civil Relief Act. That’s a federal law offering protections to people in military service.

This fall, a course will address how social media and technology problems can wind up in front of your court.

There also will be several online courses on fundamentals such as hearsay, contempt, legal writing, case management, and so on.

Specialized courses on juvenile “sexting” laws, domestic violence, psychiatric disorders, and ethics will be offered.

Many of these courses can be viewed for free and we encourage you to watch them more than once.
Each of you have received a copy of the 2019 course catalog. Please take advantage of these courses and resources that the Supreme Court offers through the Judicial College.

Of your many responsibilities, you have one simple, yet vital goal.

We, as members of the judiciary, are here to serve our fellow citizens.

Your work will be challenging, yet rewarding.

Please remember this:

Each party who stands before you deserves respect.

There will be times – trying times for you – when the proceedings in your court room will be frustrating.

This can be especially true when dealing with pro se litigants. Their lack of legal knowledge can be wearisome.

I ask that you offer patience.

Sometimes, the work that you do isn’t so much about providing a legal solution.

It’s about the “art of compromise.” Not every case needs to be a fight to the finish.

You will learn quickly that listening is a valued component in what you do every day.

We are charged with dispensing justice faithfully and impartially.

You must ensure that all litigants and interested parties know that you listened to them – that you considered their point of view thoroughly.

Your new position as a magistrate will be a transition.

And as a result, your life will change, both personally and professionally.

As you transition, don’t be afraid to reach out to other magistrates for advice. I hope that you realize that judges do that all of the time.

Ask a magistrate to ‘adopt’ you for a while. To act as a mentor. We all need an experienced person to help with our perspective and to be a sounding board.

Magistrates are fortunate that there is the Magistrates Association…join and get active. You will make friends and learn. And when you get a few years of experience, you will be able to give back by acting as a mentor yourself.

Stay professionally active. Engage in your community. And remember not to lose your focus on friends and family.

Thank you, once again, for taking on this honorable position.

And I want to say thanks, again, to our Judicial College.

Best of luck to all of you.

And God Bless.