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Swearing-In Ceremony

Do's and Don'ts

By Judge Stephen A. Wolaver (2009)
Greene County Court of Common Pleas

The election results are in or you have been appointed to the bench, and you are a new judge. Your next step is to take your oath of office. The Ohio Revised Code requires the judge take the oath of office on or before the first day of the judge’s official term. A Step-By-Step Guide of Required Documentation for Elected or Appointed Judges, revised March 2009, gives an overview of the required oaths, bonds, and documentation. The guide is on the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Web site.

However, planning for the swearing-in ceremony should start the day after election! The swearing-in ceremony should be a “big” event, possibly the biggest in your professional life. Do not short change this once-in-a-lifetime moment. Go for the pomp and circumstance the office of the judiciary should expect.

There are several things to think about, so I will offer them all, and you and your spouse or significant other can start where you like.

Select a location for the ceremony (for example, your new courtroom) and reserve the date. Wherever you decide to hold the ceremony, assure seating capacity. You may need to arrange for closed-circuit television in other rooms if an overflow crowd is anticipated.

Set your ceremony date far enough ahead for your convenience and to accommodate out-of-town family and guests. Consider the weather and other major community event dates when selecting the date.

Select someone to preside over the proceeding who may also be the person who will administer your oath. Ask him/her to reserve the date.

Invite someone to be in charge of details so you can enjoy the experience.

If you are a new judge, order your robe so it is delivered before the ceremony. It can take up to six weeks to receive a robe after it is ordered. Traditionally, the judge puts on the robe, with a family member assisting, after taking the oath and wears it for the remainder of the ceremony.

It may be advisable to attend another judge’s swearing-in ceremony, if possible. If not, and if this is your first swearing-in, you may try to obtain a recording of a colleague’s ceremony to get a feel for the details.

Next, notify the dignitaries you want to invite so they can schedule the date. This may include other elected officials and fellow judges. Ask the judges to wear their robes. It is an impressive sight!

Prepare or order invitations, and mail them early. Again, do not limit attendance. If you need a larger venue, assure one is available. Notify the media of the event with a personal invitation.

Start early on your program. While the only requirement is taking the oath, everyone expects a speech so do not disappoint! A few words of advice . . . do not speak for an hour! That went out with William Jennings Bryan! No more than 20 minutes is good. Do not forget to thank those who made this day possible.

It is optional whether you want to draft a program to hand out. It will always be a memento for your guests and you.

Prepare the written oath and give it to the person swearing you in. Have extra copies signed by the person administering the oath after the ceremony. The oath must be transmitted within 20 days of your first day of the official term of office to the clerk of the court to which you have been elected or appointed and to the Office of Human Resources of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

If you wish, select family members to stand with you when the oath is administered. Some judges may want to have their spouse or significant other hold a family Bible during the swearing-in. You may not need a dress rehearsal, but be sure the flow and choreography of the event is to your liking.

Other aspects of the ceremony will be up to you. Again, do not short change this event . . . remember the pomp and circumstance.

A reception immediately after the event will allow those in attendance to greet you and spend time with others. It does not have to be elaborate. Punch and cookies are fine or you can do more if you wish.

You may also want a formal reception at a “party” site that evening or soon after. This is not required, but it is a nice touch to thank people who helped you in your quest for your new position.

Most, if not all, of these expenses can be paid from your campaign fund. Be sure to coordinate this with your treasurer.

As we all know, rules change, so check with the Supreme Court, the Governor’s office who issues your commission, and the local board of elections for requirements about dates and documents required. I will also be very pleased to answer any questions you may have.

This is a fun event for the whole family. Your spouse or significant other of the new judge will have an opportunity to be an important partner in making this occasion as spectacular as it should be.

Finally, have fun and enjoy. This is a great career!

For information about the Advisory Committee on the Judicial Family Network, please contact Judicial Services Program Manager Dean Hogan, Supreme Court of Ohio, 614.387.9467.

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