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Thomas Joseph Moyer

Born on April 18, 1939, to Idamae Hessler and Clarence E. Moyer, Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, where he developed a lifelong love of sailing. He received his Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1961 and his juris doctor in 1964, both from The Ohio State University, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and Ohio Staters, Inc.

At the time of his untimely death on April 2, 2010 at age 70, he was the longest-serving chief justice in the country, and he was the second longest-serving chief justice in Ohio's history. Chief Justice Moyer was elected to his first term on the Supreme Court of Ohio in November 1986 and took office on January 1, 1987. He was re-elected in 1992, 1998 and 2004.

Chief Justice Moyer was a leader in providing citizens with improved access to the courts through alternative dispute resolution and computer technology. He also sought to ensure equal access to the courts through the development of a certification process for interpreters for non-English speakers and the hearing-impaired.

Chief Justice Moyer worked with leaders of the judiciary and the General Assembly to develop family courts, a comprehensive approach to resolving criminal and civil issues confronting families. As chairman of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission, Chief Justice Moyer led efforts to revise Ohio felony, misdemeanor, traffic and juvenile sentencing laws adopted by the General Assembly.

The Chief Justice also was at the forefront of efforts to improve the method of selecting judges in Ohio and worked with all interested parties to develop legislative proposals to increase reporting requirements for judicial campaign contributions and to increase the minimum professional qualifications required of judicial candidates. In November 2009, he co-hosted a Forum on Judicial Selection to discuss amending the way Justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio are selected.

Chief Justice Moyer also worked with lawyers and judges in other countries developing independent judiciaries. After Ukraine gained its independence, he led efforts to introduce that country to the importance of the rule of law and hosted delegations from Ukraine on a regular basis. Chief Justice Moyer also worked with judicial leaders in China, Argentina and Chile.

His vision and leadership resulted in the restoration of the Ohio Judicial Center, which houses the Supreme Court of Ohio at 65 South Front Street in downtown Columbus. The building, which first opened in 1931 as the Ohio Departments Building, had fallen into decay and was targeted for demolition before Chief Justice Moyer led efforts to renovate it and turn it into a home for the Supreme Court and affiliated offices of the Ohio judicial branch. When the Court moved into the restored facility in 2004, it was the first time in the state’s history that the Supreme Court was housed separate from other state offices. Chief Justice Moyer often spoke of this as an important substantive and symbolic move for the Court to reinforce the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers. 

The building was dedicated on May 15, 2004 as the new Ohio Judicial Center during an inspiring event that included the late U.S. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist as keynote speaker.

Chief Justice Moyer served as vice-chair of the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center (ASTAR), a national consortium to prepare judges for managing the resolution of disputes that present complex science issues. He also chaired the Task Force on Politics and Judicial Selection for the Conference of Chief Justices and co-chaired its Committee on Emergency Preparedness in the Courts. He also served as chairman of the board of directors of the National Center for State Courts, as well as chairman of a joint committee of the National Conference of Chief Justices and National Conference of State Court Administrators that conducted a national multi-disciplinary conference on the impact of drug abuse on the state courts.

He served on the board of Justice at Stake, a national organization that supports fair and impartial courts. In 2009, he also was appointed to the Advisory Committee of the (Sandra Day) O’Connor Judicial Selection Initiative. In 1987, at the 300th Ohio State University commencement, he was recognized as one of 40 outstanding alumni. In August 2009, Chief Justice Moyer delivered his last major address to about 1,900 graduates at Ohio State’s summer quarter commencement.

In June 1989, the Chief Justice received the American Judicature Society Herbert Harley Award for improving the administration of justice in Ohio. In August 1995, he was named president of the Conference of Chief Justices for a one-year term. In January 2003, he was awarded the James F. Henry Award for exemplary alternative dispute resolution leadership in the state judiciary from the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution. In addition, the National Client Protection Organization recognized Chief Justice Moyer with its 2008 Isaac Hecht Law Client Protection Award given for demonstrated excellence in the field of law-client protection.

Before his election as Chief Justice, Moyer served eight years as a judge of the 10th District Court of Appeals in Franklin County from 1979 to 1986 and four years as executive assistant to former Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes from 1975 to 1979. He also worked eight years in the private practice of law in Columbus, including three years, from 1972 to 1975, with the firm of Crabbe, Brown, Jones, Potts & Schmidt. He began his career of public service in 1970 as a member of the Columbus School Board, where he served until 1975, including two years as board president.

During his distinguished judicial and legal career, he also devoted his time and efforts to numerous community and civic organizations. He served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Ohio State University Alumni Association, as well as a member of the board of trustees of Franklin University, Harding Hospital, Friends of WOSU, University Club, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Columbus, Metropolitan School of Columbus, Columbus Area Community Mental Health Center, Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, and Columbus Area Council on Alcoholism.

In addition to his many professional accomplishments, he was a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend. He was survived by Mary Francis Moyer, his loving and devoted wife; son, Drew Damon Moyer (Lori); step-daughters, Anne Emens Miller (Rick), Alaine Francis Emens (Jackie Fields), Elizabeth Francis Emens (Noa Ben-Asher); step-son, John David Emens (Jane); grandchildren, Faith Ann Moyer, Carson Miller, Leigh Miller and Ariel Emens-Asher; sisters-in-law, Carol Ziegler Moyer and Elaine Francis Dunn. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, John E. Moyer.

Chief Justice Moyer’s Ohio-flag-draped casket lay in state in the Courtroom of the Supreme Court of Ohio at the Ohio Judicial Center on Friday, April 9, 2010, for more than nine hours. Mrs. Moyer and her family received hundreds of guests throughout that time. Following the public state event, the Chief’s casket remained in the Courtroom overnight, attended by uniformed officers of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

A funeral service on Saturday, April 10, 2010, at 11 a.m., at First Community Church, 1320 Cambridge Blvd., Columbus, was attended by more than 700 people. A private burial at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus took place later that afternoon.

The Supreme Court of Ohio held a public Memorial Tribute on Law Day, Saturday, May 1, 2010, in the Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom of the new Ohio Union on the campus of The Ohio State University. A crowd of about 700 people attended. The event included a grand procession, led by the Pipes and Drums of the Cleveland Police, which included more than 125 robed judges representing the courts of Ohio, federal courts of Ohio and numerous state supreme courts throughout the country.

On December 2, 2011, in an official session of Court attended by judges and leaders from throughout Ohio, the building was named the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, and the official portrait of Chief Justice Moyer was accepted by the Court and permanently installed in the Grand Concourse. Chief Justice Moyer joins U.S. Presidents and other great leaders from the history of Ohio who are forever memorialized in this space.

Among Chief Justice Moyer’s numerous career awards were: Award of Merit, Ohio Legal Center Institute; Outstanding Young Man of Columbus, Columbus Jaycees (1969); Ohio Bar Medal, Ohio State Bar Association (1991); Ritter Award, Ohio State Bar Foundation (1996); Distinguished Service Award, National Center for State Courts (1997); Liberty Bell Award, Columbus Bar Association (1997); The Irwin Cantor Award for Innovative Programming, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (1998); Columbus Bar Foundation and Association Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service by a Judge (2001); Professional Achievement Award, Ohio State University Alumni Association (2003); Jurisprudence Award, American ORT Cleveland Chapter (2004); Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Cleveland State University (2009); President’s Award, Columbus Bar Association (2009); Founders Award, Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (2009); and Honorary Doctor of Community Leadership, Franklin University (2010).

He also received honorary doctor of laws degrees from Akron University in 1989, The Defiance College in 1990, Miami University in 1991, The Ohio State University in 1993 and Franklin University in 2008.

As part of his work to improve the judicial system in Ohio and throughout the country, he also was a committee member of the Institute of Judicial Administration to develop national standards for the adoption of alternative dispute resolution programs by state court systems; co-chair of the American Bar Association Task Force to Develop a Model Mediation Law; member of the American Bar Association Commission on State Judicial Selection Standards; member of the Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference; member of the Executive Committee and Council of Delegates of the Ohio State Bar Association; president of the Columbus Bar Association (1980-1981); president of the Barristers Club (1972); member of the Lawyers Club; and a participant in an American Bar Association Symposium on Civil Justice Improvements.

William Howard Taft

b. April 18, 1939

d. April 2, 2010

141st Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio

Jan 1, 1987
to Apr 2, 2010

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