What Is the Role of a Justice?

​Q:  What is the difference between a judge and a justice?
A:  A judge may preside over a “lower” court (such as a municipal or common pleas court), or may be a member of a “higher” court, called an appeals court. In Ohio, judges are elected to serve six-year terms. To qualify as candidates, they must be licensed attorneys with at least six years of experience.

A justice is a member of a “supreme” court, such as the Supreme Court of Ohio (or the U.S. Supreme Court). The seven justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio are elected to serve six-year terms. To qualify as candidates, they must be licensed attorneys with at least six years’ experience.

Q:  What do Ohio’s justices do?
A:  The Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Ohio. Most of its cases are appeals from the 12 district courts of appeals. The Court may grant leave to appeal criminal cases from the courts of appeals and may direct any court of appeals to certify its record on civil cases that are found to be "cases of public or great general interest." The Court must accept appeals of cases that begin in the courts of appeals, cases involving the death penalty, cases involving questions arising under the U.S. Constitution or the Ohio Constitution, and cases in which there were conflicting opinions from two or more courts of appeals. The Court also must accept appeals from such administrative bodies as the Board of Tax Appeals and the Public Utilities Commission.

The Court has original jurisdiction for certan special remedies that permit a person to file an action in the Supreme Court of Ohio. These extraordinary remedies include: 

  • writs of habeas corpus (involving the release of persons who allegedly have been unlawfully imprisoned or committed);
  • writs of mandamus and procedendo (both of which involve ordering a public official to do something taht his/her role as a public servant requires);
  • writs of prohibition (to order a lower court to stop doing something that is against the law); and
  • writs of quo warranto (brought against a person or corporation for usurpation, misuse or abuse of a public office or a corporate office or franchise).

The Supreme Court of Ohio also makes rules governing practice and procedure in Ohio's courts, such as the Rules of Evidence and Rules of Criminal Procedure. Procedural rules adopted by the Supreme Court become effective unless both houses of the Ohio General Assembly respond together with a resolution saying they disapprove of the Court's rules. The Supreme Court also has general authority over all state courts, and its rules of superintendence set minimum standards for court administration statewide.

In addition, the Court has authority over the admission of attorneys to the practice of law in ohio and may discipline admitted attorneys who violate the rules governing the practice of law or judges who violate the rules governing the judiciary. The Supreme Court also has the authority to stop persons from practicing law if they are not licensed to do so, and to impose civil penalties on such persons.

Q:  What does Ohio’s chief justice do?
A:  In addition to hearing cases with the other members of the Court, the chief justice assigns judges to courts for temporary duty in cases of a court overload, where a judge has been removed from a case because of an affidavit of disqualification, or where a judge has recused himself or herself from a particular case.

Q:  How are Ohio’s Supreme Court justices chosen?
A:  Two justices are chosen on a nonpartisan ballot during the general election in every even-numbered year. In the year when the chief justice runs for office, voters pick three members of the Court. If a justice leaves the Court between elections, the governor may appoint a justice to fill the vacancy.


This "Law You Can Use" consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA).​​

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.



Staff Directory

Contact Information


8 A.M. - 5 P.M.
Monday - Friday