|Judge Robert M. Duncan and Judge Thomas Nurre were honored as recipients of the Thomas J. Moyer Award for Judicial Excellence at the Ohio Judicial Conference Annual Meeting in Columbus. Ohio State Bar Association President Jonathan Hollingsworth presented the awards.
“Both Judge Duncan and Judge Nurre have been praised for qualities that Chief Justice Moyer also exhibited. Judge Duncan was one of Chief Justice Moyer’s mentors, and was widely recognized for his integrity, fairness, professionalism, courage and decisiveness. Judge Nurre is known for his character, humility and dedication to public service. Following his service on the bench, he continued to serve as a visiting assigned judge from 2003 until he retired in 2013. It is fitting that we honor these distinguished jurists,” said Hollingsworth
The award was established in 2010 by OSBA in honor of the late Chief Justice, who was posthumously given the inaugural award, to recognize a current or former Ohio state or federal judge who displays outstanding qualities of judicial excellence including integrity, fairness, open-mindedness, knowledge of the law, professionalism, ethics, creativity, sound judgment, courage and decisiveness.
Like Chief Justice Moyer, the late Judge Duncan was an Ohio native and earned two degrees from The Ohio State University. A veteran of the Korean Conflict, he returned to Ohio to serve as an assistant attorney general and later as chief counsel for William Saxbe, counsel for the Industrial Commission, and assistant Columbus city attorney. He was elected to the Franklin County Municipal Court in 1966, and his judicial record led to his appointment to the Supreme Court of Ohio by Governor James Rhodes in 1969. In 1970 he became the first African-American to win election to the Supreme Court of Ohio. The following year, he became the first African-American member of the U.S. Military Court of Appeals, where he later served as Chief Judge until his appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. His tenure as a federal district judge was marked by a landmark case: Penick v. Columbus Board of Education. Judge Duncan ruled that the Columbus City Schools had engaged in a policy of segregating black and white students since 1909, and ordered the district to desegregate the schools. Although his ruling was controversial and unpopular at the time, the case was later reviewed and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A 1952 graduate of Xavier University and veteran of the Korean Conflict, Judge Nurre earned his law degree from the University of Cincinnati (UC) in 1957. Following a decade in private practice, he became judge of the Hamilton County Municipal Court in 1968, and judge of the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in 1973. He subsequently served as a visiting assigned judge from 2003 until his retirement in 2013. He served as president of the American Judges Association and as a member of its Executive Committee. An active member of the Cincinnati Bar Association (CBA), he served on its Executive Committee and as co-chair of its Diversity Committee, and received the CBA Trustees Award in 1996. He is a past vice-president of the UC College of Law Alumni Association Board of Trustees and the 1999 recipient of the UC College of Law Outstanding Alumnus Award. A dedicated public servant, Judge Nurre is a Friars Club past president and has served on the boards of the Ft. Scott Camp for Boys and Girls, the Center for Mediation of Disputes, St. Ursula Academy, and the St. Xavier University Alumni Association. He belongs to the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Order of Foresters, and is a past president of the Council of Catholic Men. He is also a past president of the Hamilton County Republican Club.