Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Governor DeWine Press Conference Remarks
March 19, 2020

Thank you, Governor DeWine. And thank you for your courageous leadership over the past week.

This is an unprecedented time, a time during which the judiciary of Ohio as well as the bar, and state and local leaders must come together to guarantee the vital, continued operation of the state’s judicial system and the public’s access to its courts.

I both commend and thank Ohio’s judiciary for taking action, issuing orders and considering the health and safety of the public as well as their staff, all the while mindful of the structure and dictates of our constitution and our laws.

My intent today is to let everyone know what the courts are doing and my expectation of what they should be doing to continue operating in a manner consistent with the state’s public health strategy.

Last Friday, I met with the state’s judicial leadership to discuss the judiciary’s response to the pandemic. After that meeting, I sent a lengthy email to all judges in Ohio. In the meeting and email, I emphasized several key points that want to highlight today:

Courts all over the state have responded by issuing orders that do just that.

FOR EXAMPLE:

But there is still work to be done. Today, I want to encourage local courts to continue using their own authority and initiative to address common issues we’re seeing across the state. For example, I urge all judges to:

Looking ahead, we will be working with the Governor and General Assembly on a legislative proposal that will provide more uniformity and continuity in our judicial system’s response to emergencies like this.

I must also mention the work of the Supreme Court itself. We continue to consider and decide cases. Although we have taken common-sense measures consistent with the Governor’s guidance to reduce risk, the Court remains open.

We have essential staff performing their duties on and off site. We will continue to accept case filings and provide support to judges, local court staff, and attorneys.

Finally, I understand that many local courts lack the technology and resources needed to implement some of these options.

To meet that need, the Supreme Court will release funds in the form of grants to local courts to obtain video conferencing equipment. It is my hope that by pushing out this funding on an emergency basis, we can assist the local courts in quick implementation of video conferencing for arraignments and other conferencing purposes. I expect to announce the process for those grants tomorrow.

Before I take your questions I’d like to say that I have personally been in touch with many judges, the bar associations’ leadership and in constant conversation with Director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, Paul Pfeifer. We are working together in this ever-changing environment and pleased to continue to do so