New Year brings change to the bench

Judge with gavelThe New Year has resulted in a lot of new faces on the bench in Ohio. Of the 724 judgeships in the state, 37 posts have a new judge behind the bench with the majority of those filled by attorneys who have never been judges.

Three of the seven Ohio Supreme Court justices are new to the court but not new to the bench. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, who defeated Yvette McGee Brown in the November election, was sworn in to office on Dec. 7. Gov. Kasich appointed Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge Judith L. French on December 20 to the seat vacated by Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. Former Eleventh District Court of Appeals Judge William M. O’Neill, who defeated Robert R. Cupp in November, took the oath of office on Dec. 27.

But the changeover doesn’t end there. Many district appeals courts, common pleas courts, and county courts are under new management as well.

The newest members of Ohio’s judiciary came to the job with a lack of experience, but they didn’t arrive empty handed. Over four days in early December, each attended an intense and comprehensive new judges orientation organized by the Ohio Judicial College.

The orientation is intended to help newly elected and recently appointed judges learn more about how to succeed on the bench and make a smooth transition from the bar to the bench. The judges attended sessions focusing on judicial ethics, access to justice and fairness in the courts, caseflow management and court security.

Throughout the week, the appellate, common pleas, municipal and county, domestic relations, probate, and juvenile judges broke out into sessions related to their specific jurisdictions to discuss civil case matters, sentencing, domestic violence, and traffic law. The judges also attended workshops on trial skills and accepting a plea.

The Judicial College conducts the first weeklong orientation session annually in December, after the November election but before the beginning of the new judges’ terms. The judges attend a second weeklong orientation in April.

In her welcoming remarks to the new judges on Dec. 10, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor explained the importance of topics they would be learning about, shared some anecdotes from her days as a new judge, and encouraged them to make use of the services available from the Supreme Court.

She congratulated them on joining the judicial community.

“You have responsibilities to the public that elected you, the staff you inherited, and the litigants and defendants who will come before you in court,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “It’s true that you are an independent officeholder, but with independence comes responsibility. I urge you to keep your docket up to date and to be visible in the community whether inside the courthouse or out.”

She also asked that the new judges consider getting involved in their communities and in educating the public about the judiciary and what judges do.

Two new judges who attended the orientation spoke of what they hoped to learn about serving on the bench.

Former Champaign County Prosecutor Nick Selvaggio donned the judge’s robe on Jan.1.

He said he found the orientation to be helpful and that he was looking forward to serving his community.

Selvaggio made the switch from a job he held for 16 years to presiding over the county’s common pleas bench. He said it will be a new perspective listening to both sides of the bar.

“It’s a lot like being a parent. You know growing up you always think if you are a parent this is how you would do it. And when you become a parent you realize, ‘oh my parents were actually right in the way they were raising me,’ so I wonder if it’s going to be the same as a judge,” Selvaggio said.

Recent municipal court magistrate Marie Hoover will take her skills to a new level as she becomes the first woman and first Asian American to preside over the Fourth District Court of Appeals. She said she’s looking forward to taking the next step.

“Just to be able to help with justice and fairness and all those things that you want to do as a lawyer or as a young lawyer when you come out of law school,” Hoover said. “I think this is the best way to try and help people and serve.”

Justice Kennedy brings to the Supreme Court 14 years of experience on the bench after serving as a Butler County Domestic Relations Court judge. From 2005 until December of 2012 she served as the court’s administrative judge.

During her swearing-in ceremony, Justice Kennedy spoke of the many changes in the law since she became a judge and one constant: the constitutional protection of individual freedom. “And as a judge, my role is limited. I am required to faithfully, fairly, and impartially uphold the law as written and to honor the separation of powers as carefully crafted by our Founders in the Constitution.”

Justice O’Neill was elected in 1996 to the 11th District Court of Appeals and re-elected in 2002. He served two terms as presiding judge for the appellate court for Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage and Trumbull counties.

In a recent interview, Justice O’Neill said that after deciding more than 3,000 appellate cases and taking the required new judges classes he hopes to be prepared to sit among the state’s top judicial authorities. “It’s an awfully big job, and I hope I’m up to the task.”

At the press conference announcing her appointment to the Supreme Court, Judge French outlined her judicial philosophy.

“As the newest justice I plan to continue to serve the standard I set for myself really as an appeals court judge, and that is to rule justly and fairly, to interpret Ohio law strictly, to always remember that my role as a judge is limited and to serve all of Ohio and to give it my very best,” she said.

Justice French was appointed to the appeals court, which serves Franklin County, in 2004 and won election to a full six-year term later that year. She was re-elected to the seat in 2010. Justice French can run in the November 2014 general election for a full six-year term on the Supreme Court.

Here are the 26 incoming rookies—new judges without any prior judicial experienceto the bench in Ohio.

  • Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge David A. Cheney.
  • Belmont County Court, Western Division Judge Eric N. Costine
  • Champaign County Common Pleas Court Judge Nicola A. Selvaggio.
  • Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael E. Jackson.
  • Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams
  • Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven E. Gall
  • Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Denise N. Rini
  • Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge John T. McCormack
  • Fourth District Court of Appeals Judge Marie Corazon Moraleja Hoover
  • Franklin County Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court Judge Terri Babbette Jamison Gary
  • Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Kimberly J. Brown
  • Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie E. Ghiz
  • Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge John R. Miraldi
  • Lorain County Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court Judge Lisa I. Swenski
  • Lorain County Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court Judge Frank J. Janik III
  • Marion County Common Pleas Court Judge James W. Slagle
  • Meigs County Common Pleas and Domestic Relations Court Judge I. Carson Crow
  • Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael W. Krumholtz
  • Ninth District Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer L. Hensal
  • Pike County Court Judge Paul F. Price
  • Pike County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Robert N. Rosenberger
  • Sandusky County Court Judge Mary E. Fiser
  • Scioto County Domestic Relations Court Judge Jerry L. Buckler
  • Trumbull County Court, Eastern Division Judge Robert M. Platt Jr.
  • Trumbull County Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court Judge Sandra S. Weddell-Harwood
  • Washington County Common Pleas and Domestic Relations Court Judge Randall G. Burnworth
Along with Justices Kennedy, French, and O’Neill and, an additional nine judges switched one court for another or used to be on the bench.

  • Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Michael J. Ryan
  • Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Eileen T. Gallagher
  • Eleventh District Court of Appeals Judge Colleen M. O’Toole
  • First District Court of Appeals Judge Richard Patrick DeWine
  • Second District Court of Appeals Judge Jeffrey M. Welbaum
  • Sixth District Court of Appeals Judge James D. Jensen
  • Summit County Probate Court Judge Elinore M. Stormer
  • Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald J. Rice
  • Warren County Common Pleas Court Judge Donald E. Oda II
Content courtesy of Court News Ohio.



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