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  • 10 Sep 2020 8:28 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor will deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address in Columbus using remote technology on Thursday, Sept. 10.

    The address will take place as part of the annual meeting of the Ohio Judicial Conference 2020. The conference theme is “Breaking Barriers.”

    The State of the Judiciary will be carried live on the Ohio Channel and live-streamed at ohiochannel.org, https://youtu.be/Kn6vFoqFlno, and on the Supreme Court’s website, beginning at 10:25 a.m. EDT.

  • 28 Jul 2020 12:53 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The Ohio Supreme Court issued an order allowing state attorneys to receive Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit for serving as precinct election officials on Election Day, according to Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office.

    Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said the need for poll workers is a problem they have every election, but amid COVID19, the need is even greater this year.

    "The problem is that poll workers, often times, are in the high-risk area when it comes to COVID-19 because many of them are over the age of 60, so the Secretary of State got the brilliant idea to ask attorneys to do it. We have 42,000 plus attorneys in the state," she said.

    According to LaRose's office, 65% of poll workers in Ohio are over the age of 61, putting them in the high-risk category for COVID-19.

    Attorneys in Ohio have to complete 24 hours of CLE credit every 2 years.

    "It's basically a refresher course," said Dean DePiero, an attorney in Northeast Ohio. "It’s a good refresher on different areas on the law and it’s a good opportunity to catch up on new court rulings and those types of things," he said.

    Under this order, if they volunteer to work the precincts on Election Day, they can earn up to 4 of those 24 needed credits.

    "I think lawyers generally are very civic-minded," DePiero said. "The cornerstone of our democracy is voting and free and fair elections, and so, lawyers who are skilled in that, because we are trained to be skilled in reading law and understanding the Voting Rights Act, we are in the best position to assist in those endeavors."

    DePiero said he would volunteer himself.

    "I think it’s an interesting twist. I think it’s a good idea," he said.

    O'Connor said it's not just for attorneys, "Judges can do this, as well, if they're not on the ballot."

    If you'd like to sign up to be a precinct official: click here.

    Original article posted here

  • 28 Jul 2020 10:33 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Gov. Mike DeWine has announced the appointment of Kristy S. Wilkin to the Fourth District Court of Appeals.

    Judge-designate Wilkin, of Hillsboro, will assume office Aug. 3 and must run for election on Nov. 3 for the remainder of the unexpired term ending Feb. 8, 2023. She is replacing Judge Matthew W. McFarland, who was appointed by President Trump as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

    Judge-designate Wilkin is currently a partner at Peelle Law Offices Co. LPA in Hillsboro. She has served as an adjunct professor at Southern State Community College and has held a judicial externship in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

    She graduated cum laude from Xavier University with a degree in accounting and holds a degree from the Ohio Northern University Petit School of Law, where she served as associate editor of the law review.

    Original article posted here.

  • 24 Jul 2020 1:47 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    On Friday, July 24, the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) will recognize excellence in the legal profession at its 2020 Annual Meeting.

    Originally scheduled to take place in June, the meeting was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and will now take place virtually, via Zoom.
     
    The event will include the presentation of the Ohio Bar Medal – the OSBA’s highest honor – to Kurtis Tunnell, posthumously.
     
    In addition, Hudson attorney Tania Nemer will receive the OSBA Women in the Profession Section’s Nettie Cronise Lutes Award. The OSBA’s Eugene Weir Award for Ethics and Professionalism will go to Cincinnati attorney Edwin W. Patterson III (Terry). The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation will present its Presidential Award for Pro Bono Service to Gerry Greene of Cincinnati.

    The Ohio Bar Medal is the OSBA’s highest honor, awarded to those who have given unselfishly of their time and talent by taking prominent leadership roles on the bench and in the organized bar and who have worked quietly to earn the deep admiration and respect of their colleagues and their community.
     
    Kurtis Tunnell, a prominent Columbus attorney and devoted legal advocate, passed away in August 2019 at the age of 58. He spent his 31-year legal career at the law firm of Bricker and Eckler, where his practice centered on public policy and politics, rising to the position of managing partner in 2010. He was a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in the legal profession as well as a mentor for many young lawyers. While at Bricker and Eckler, he created the Tunnell Leadership Development Program in order to grow leadership capacity and provide opportunities for young attorneys to make contributions to the firm.
     
    Tunnell was widely recognized and valued for his public policy expertise. At 31 years old, he was tapped to serve as chief legal counsel to Governor George Voinovich and during the course of his career served as advisor to attorneys general, members of the Ohio General Assembly, congressional leaders and President George W. Bush. 
     
    Tunnell retired from the practice of law in January 2018. He remained involved at his church, serving as deacon, and on community boards and foundations. He assisted in the creation and development of a self-sustaining farm business model in Malawi. The Namikango Farm continues to provide jobs for Malawi workers and their families and serves as a demonstration site for other international charity efforts in Africa.
     
    Tunnell is survived by his wife, Julie, and their three children, daughters Kristine and Jessica and son Jordan. He will be awarded the Bar Medal posthumously, for his legacy of leadership and service. 

    • • •

    The OSBA Women in the Profession Section created the Nettie Cronise Lutes Award to recognize women lawyers who demonstrate a high level of professionalism and open doors for other women and girls. The award commemorates the first woman to practice law in Ohio.

    Tania Nemer serves as the community outreach prosecutor for the Summit County Prosecutor’s office. Nemer is a zealous advocate who dedicates her time to educating young children about the law and serving immigrant families, including volunteering her time at detention facilities along the southern U.S. border.
     
    Nemer served as a student attorney at the Washtenaw County Public Defender's Office in Michigan and later joined the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office in Ohio. In 2008, she joined McGinty, Hilow & Spellacy Co. LPA, where she was of counsel, focusing her practice on criminal and immigration law.

    After working in private practice for seven years, Nemer shifted her practice to the nonprofit sector, serving as an immigration senior attorney at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, an organization that offers pro bono and low-cost legal services to individuals living in the eight county diocese.

    In 2019, she served as a magistrate for the Akron Municipal Court where she presided over cases involving small claims, traffic, criminal and civil matters.

    Nemer received her bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University and graduated with distinction from Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

    • • • 

    The OSBA Board of Governors established the Weir Award in 1998 to honor the memory of Eugene R. Weir, a former member of the board. Weir championed improvements in lawyer regulation and strongly advocated for professionalism and legal ethics. Each year this award is given to one lawyer who has worked to promote and uphold legal professionalism and ethics.

    Edwin W. Patterson III (Terry) has been practicing law for more than 40 years, serving as general counsel of the Cincinnati Bar Association (CBA) since 1982, and as counsel to the Certified Grievance Committee and Ethics Committee. Patterson practiced in Columbus as the commission counsel for the Ohio Ethics Commission before joining the CBA. 
     
    Since 2015, Patterson has worked with the Certified Grievance Committee to investigate more than 100 complaints of attorney misconduct. Seeing a need for ethics advice and guidance among Ohio attorneys, in 1998, Patterson worked with the Ethics Committee to establish an ethics hotline. The hotline enlists two attorneys each month who are ready to assist callers with interpreting their obligations under the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. Patterson continues to take calls on a weekly basis, and is a trusted, confidential resource for many lawyers throughout Ohio.
     
    In addition to the ethics hotline, he created the Flying Solo program and the Practice Assistance Round Table, targeted to solo practitioners. He has led the effort to educate attorneys about the need for succession planning, especially in solo and small firm practice, and worked with a colleague to create a handbook on accounting for client funds.
     
    Patterson is a frequent lecturer on legal ethics at the CBA, the University of Cincinnati College of Law, the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct and the Hamilton County Trial Lawyers Association, among others. He served on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Task Force on Rules of Professional Conduct from 2003-2006, the National Organization of Bar Counsel Association of Professional Responsibility (NOBC-APRL) Joint Committee on Aging Lawyers from 2005-2007 and co-chaired the NOBC-APRL Joint Committee on Competency from 2007-2010.
     
    Patterson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Miami University in Oxford and his law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law.

    • • •

    The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation (formerly the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation) established the Presidential Award for Pro Bono Service in 1996 to recognize individuals, law firms or organizations that have made outstanding efforts in improving access to justice in Ohio.

    Gerald (Gerry) H. Greene is a volunteer attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. Greene attended law school after a 33-year career with Proctor and Gamble in engineering management. He has dedicated his second career as a lawyer solely to pro bono service.
     
    Looking for a way to give back to the community, Greene approached the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati in 2002 and offered to work full-time as a staff attorney without compensation. In 17 years as an in-house volunteer attorney at legal aid, he has resolved 269 divorce and custody cases. His clients and colleagues recognize him as an exemplar of generosity. 
     
    In addition to his legal work, Greene serves on the board of the Taft Museum of Art and on the board of directors of ArtsWave Cincinnati. He has previously been honored with the Cincinnati Bar Association’s Warrington Community Service Award and the Legal Aid Equal Justice Leadership Award.
     
    Greene received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Detroit, a master’s at Purdue University and his law degree from the University of Dayton.

    The OSBA Awards are part of the OSBA Annual Meeting, which includes the association’s annual General Assembly for conducting OSBA business, as well as the meeting of the OSBA Council of Delegates, which sets public policy priorities for the association based upon the proposals of the association’s committees and sections, who specialize in specific practice areas.

    The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 28,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice. 

    Original article posted here

  • 23 Jul 2020 2:00 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The Ohio Supreme Court has unanimously approved a novel plan that would turn Ohio lawyers into volunteer poll workers for a day at general election sites on Nov. 3. In return, participating attorneys would earn credit toward their mandatory continuing education obligations.

    “Ohio attorneys have a long record of public service,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor declared. “I can think of no greater opportunity for lawyers in Ohio to give back to our state than to get involved on election day and help fill the urgent need for poll workers.”

    Lawyers in Ohio are required to earn 24 continuing legal education credits – known as CLE – every two years by attending live and online programs accredited by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Continuing Legal Education.

    To earn their four credit hours, volunteer attorneys must complete training at their county board of elections and they must work the entire voting day.

    The Ohio Supreme Court’s action, which required a one-time rule change, was taken in conjunction with Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the state’s top election official, who is working on ways to staff the polls this year during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Ohio needs 35,000 poll workers for the general election.

    “Our system of government relies on the strength of our democracy, and the strength of our democracy depends on the accuracy, accessibility, security, and overall success of our elections,” LaRose said. “The importance of recruiting enough quality poll workers to accomplish this goal cannot be understated.”

    Ohio is believed to be the first state to ask attorneys to work the polls in return for mandatory education credits.

    Poll volunteers in Ohio begin work at 5:30 a.m. The polls open at 6:30 and close at 7:30 p.m., when administrative closing procedures begin.

    As of today, there were 43,911 licensed attorneys in Ohio.

    “Attorneys are ideally suited to serve our state as poll workers,” LaRose said. “Their attention to detail and ability to quickly grasp the nuances of the responsibility make them ideal candidates to be on the front lines of our democratic process.”

    Original article posted here

  • 22 Jul 2020 4:25 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The Ohio Supreme Court today postponed the next Ohio Bar Exam from Sept. 10 and 11 to Oct. 5 and 6 and converted it to a remote test session due to the coronavirus crisis. Details about how the test will be administered are available on the Court’s website.

    The planned date for the next swearing-in ceremony for new attorneys remains tentatively scheduled for Dec. 14.

    “The safety of the exam takers and the staff who administer the exam is our top priority, and that’s why the Court felt compelled to make this change,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said.

    In May, due to the postponement of the July bar exam, the Court also approved practice pending admission for recent law graduates. 

    Original article posted here

  • 06 Jul 2020 8:24 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    Originally posted on July 3, 2020 on Court News Ohio.

    ###

    As our nation heads into its Independence Day holiday, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is issuing a statement that reflects upon our courts and the criminal justice system, the meaning of recent events in our nation, and our need to examine, by aggregating data, pre-trial and sentencing practices as they relate to those who come before the courts of Ohio.

    “Life is not fair, but our government must be…”

    These words attributed to President John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s were true then but have never been truer than now, 60 years later.

    In these times of the social unrest that erupted since the killing of George Floyd, it is important to examine the role of the judiciary as we move forward. The unrest, although galvanized by the brutality inflicted upon an unarmed, handcuffed, Black man, did not arise solely because of Mr. Floyd’s death. The unrest is a culmination of historically unequal and unlawful treatment of people of color in this country, particularly African Americans, and the decades of grievances that have largely fallen on deaf ears.

    What can we as individuals do to change this culture?  How will our judicial branch of government respond?

    In trying to identify a meaningful path forward for the courts of Ohio, I have first reviewed the performance of the courts of America over time. In all fairness, our record is a “mixed bag.”  How could it not be?

    The Constitution of the United States of America, as ratified in 1788, is a document replete with racism and sexism.  At that time in America we enslaved human beings.  This document defining The United States of America, as written, embodied the culture of slavery and the devaluation of a Black person.  It took a civil war to erase the practice of white people owning men, women, and children of color.

    From the beginning of our democracy, state and federal judges developed and enforced policies and procedures that caused people in America to be treated unequally, with bias and without the recognition that all people are created equal in the eyes of God.

    This history of “justice” in America points to the fact that our institutions can and do make mistakes.

    • Mistakes that give rise to a culture of separation, discrimination, and the mistreatment of people.
    • A culture that takes away the hopes, futures and the American promise for too many people.
    • A culture that excludes many from enjoying the freedoms and liberties established in our Constitution simply based upon race, color, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin.

    But our history also supports the fact that we can change; that we can do better.

    We can recognize the inequalities and we can eliminate them when we come together to do the right thing.  This is especially true with the justice system.  The same courts that upheld discriminatory laws and policies have, on many occasions, also declared discriminatory practices by all branches of government to be contrary to law and unconstitutional.

    For example, the United State Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), unanimously overruled the “separate but equal” doctrine announced in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), and held that segregated education facilities were inherently unequal.  The decision recognized, over time, as the concept of public schools developed, and social science took note of the psychological effects of segregation, that separate was, indeed, not equal.

    In 1944, the Court upheld the constitutionality of the President’s executive order requiring the internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry, Korematsu v. U.S., 323 U.S. 214. The decision has been criticized ever since.  In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act to grant reparations to the affected Japanese Americans.  And, in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court called Korematsu“gravely wrong the day it was decided.”  Trump v. Hawaii, 138 S.Ct. 2392, 2423, ironically, upheld President Trump’s travel ban on people from certain Muslim countries, leading two of the dissenting justices to criticize the opinion as being on parallel with the majority of the Court in KorematsuId. at 2447.

    In cases decided almost 50 years apart, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the right to marry is protected by the Constitution and guaranteed to interracial and same-sex unions, in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), and Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2584 (2015).  In Obergefell, the Court wrote: “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.  The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”  Id. at 2598.

    As the meanings of the words in our Bill of Rights evolve, as we continue to learn the meaning of liberty for all, there is room to acknowledge our errors and correct them.  Key judicial decisions, perhaps less well-known to many outside the legal field, provide the foundations upon which an equal justice system can progress and thrive.  But not without work.

    For example, in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that prosecutorial misconduct – by  withholding evidence favorable to a criminal defendant – violates the constitutional due process guarantee where that evidence is material to guilt or punishment.  And this includes evidence known only to police.  Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995).

    As the Court recognized in Brady: “Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted but when criminal trials are fair; our system of the administration of justice suffers when any accused is treated unfairly.”  373 U.S. at 87.  Brady violations still occur, and courts still make wrong decisions regarding them.  But the law still provides a path to justice, as imperfect as it may be.  And work by prosecutors to recognize past errors through Conviction Integrity Units, along with other organizations, like the Ohio Innocence Project and the Equal Justice Initiative, are helping to balance the scales of justice and point to past wrongs that demand justice today.

    In 2019,  Flowers v. Mississippi, 139 S.Ct. 2228, 2242, the Supreme Court recognized, “Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process.”  The Court noted that its 1986 decision in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79,was intended to “eradicate racial discrimination from the jury selection process,” Flowers at 2242, but that our trial judges are tasked with the “primary responsibility to enforce Batson and prevent racial discrimination from seeping into the jury selection process.”  Flowers at 2243.  And, as the Court found in Flowers, mistakes are made, or worse – committed with purposeful discrimination.

    The law recognizes the importance of equal justice.  But it is up to our court systems, the judges, and the lawyers to ensure that the constitutional guarantees are applied equally.

    So, how do we change for the better?  How do we restore respect and confidence in our institutions? One way to start is for elected officials to take inventory of their performance, individually, and collectively.

    It is a reality that the judicial branch, even though it is the most respected branch of our government, has seen the public’s level of trust diminish in recent years.  This lack of trust in our institutions should alarm us and be a call to action.  As chief justice, I am especially concerned about the low level of trust of the judiciary among African Americans. According to the 2015 National Center for State Courts Public Opinion Survey, when asked whether state courts provide equal justice for all, only 32% of African Americans answered in the affirmative.

    When asked if they felt a black male defendant would experience bias with a white judge the responses were as follows:

    • 56 percent of African Americans and 44 percent of Hispanics felt the African American defendant would suffer bias at the hands of a white judge. 
    • “Only” 30 percent of whites agreed. This number was still more than three times higher than it was for the white defendant appearing before the African American judge.

    Many of society’s problems land in the courts for resolution.  The legislature enacts the laws, the executive branch enforces them, and it is the courts where those laws are interpreted and applied.  It is through the courts that laws are set aside as discriminatory, that government actions are declared unconstitutional or contrary to law, that common law is developed, and that mandates that our law is applied fairly to all are ordered.
    We are a nation governed by the rule of law.  That is only possible if the people who make, enforce, and interpret our laws are trusted by those who are governed.

    Courts, by their creation and purpose, are to be unbiased, and must treat all equally under the law.  Despite the good that courts have done over the past 230 years, for some, courts are not to be trusted. The perception is that the system is rigged against minorities and people who are poor, and that there is an unequal application of justice.

    The judiciary can address its trust problem.  It starts with every judge, individually, in every county and city. It is imperative that every judge embrace the truth that we are ‘public servants’ and not imperious panjandrums.

    Judges must demonstrate to those who enter their courtrooms that they can expect equal treatment under the law, with respect, and with the assurance that nothing but the facts of the case and the law are taken into consideration when a decision is rendered.

    We, as judges, must examine how people are treated, especially in criminal matters.  We must make sure that pre-trial procedures are governed by the principle that all people are innocent until proven guilty.  Judges displaying personal anger, crude and profane language, name-calling, or other disrespect to litigants and their counsel do a disservice to themselves and a bigger disservice to the judiciary as a whole. It demonstrates a bias, and for that bias a judge can be removed from the case.

    Undermining our constitutional guarantees is one of the most decimating practices we as judges use in criminal matters: the setting of bail -- a system by which defendants must pay for their freedom.

    Advocates for bail reform have convincingly demonstrated that detention based upon the inability to pay can and does have a devastating effect on the poor communities which disproportionately include communities of color. Loss of jobs, homes, support systems, and family stability occur when someone cannot make even the smallest of cash bond.  If cash bail is required, it should be set in an amount that the defendant actually has the ability to post.  The purpose of bail is not to keep people in jail but to allow release pending resolution of their case.  The Constitution demands release without bond unless there is a proven risk of flight or danger to the community, including victims and witnesses.  The justice system all too frequently fails to uphold just bail practices.   There is now a mandate for judges to examine the use of bail and utilize monetary bail only in appropriate cases. The first recourse must be release on individual recognizance, with or without conditions, as appropriate.

    According to the 2018 Public Opinion Survey conducted by the National Center for State Courts, 73% of those polled believe judges should base pre-trial release on something other than ability to pay.

    Ability to pay also presents itself as a consideration when a judge is imposing a fine or fee or conducting a hearing for non-payment. Only after determining that the defendant does have the ability to pay can a fine be assessed. And only after ‘willful refusal to pay’ is established at a hearing should a defendant be sanctioned for nonpayment. Alternatives to financial sanctions exist and can work to the benefit of the defendant and the court system.

    The National Center for State Courts’ studies and survey questions tell what those who were surveyed felt.  And although perception is reality to many, it is not good enough when criminal justice policies and legislation are being formed.

    Best practices demand that data be collected to discern whether the public’s thoughts or feelings are, indeed, reality. Aggregate data regarding pre-trial and sentencing practices in relationship to race, gender, ethnic background, or religion does not exist in Ohio in a standardized format. This data gap denies decision makers and the public necessary information upon which to enact policies and laws.  If disparate sentencing based on race is the concern, only data collection will tell the whole story. The data gap also allows for funding decisions to be made that may not be the most effective use of taxpayer dollars. Data must be used to not only formulate policy but to inform decisions regarding the expenditure of public dollars.

    Without data, we are proceeding blindly, and that is contrary to acting in the best interest of the people of Ohio.

    The immediate “low hanging fruit” is the reform of bail practices and court-ordered fines and fees, and the collection of pre-trial and sentencing data regarding race, gender, ethnicity, etc.  Bail reform should not have to wait for legislative action.  Every trial judge in Ohio can and should incorporate the practice of bail reform in his or her court. Cash bail should be the very last resort, not the first choice. Release on individual  recognizance should be the first option if it is necessary to use a misdemeanor bond schedule when the court is not in session.

    The collection of data can be mandated by the Ohio Supreme Court’s  Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio and by legislative action.  Time is of the essence.

    To quote conservative political and cultural commentator David Brooks: “How exactly is all this cultural agitation going to lead to legislation that will decrease income disparities, create better housing policies or tackle the big challenges?  Dealing with these problems is going to take government. It’s going to take actual lawmaking, actual budgeting, complex compromises — all the boring, dogged work of government that is more C-SPAN than Instagram.” N.Y. Times, June 25, 2020.

    The work has begun in many communities, courts, and seats of government. But more is necessary. The recognition that reform is necessary is due in large part to the peaceful, yet forceful, demonstrations that deliver the message.

    It is unfortunate that vandals, who are not to be equated to the demonstrators, are distracting from the message of reform. The non-violent demonstrators are exercising their constitutional right to protest. As vandals misdirect the focus of the protests with their destructive activities, the demonstrators’ valuable message is in danger of being lost.

    More than 20 years ago,  the Ohio Supreme Court established the Ohio Commission on Racial Fairness. The Commission, made up of distinguished members from the courts, the bar, law enforcement, the clergy, academia, and the community, issued a report that contained recommendations to the justices. The  recommendations that address pre-trial and sentencing transparency and accountability in our justice system remain unfulfilled. The most effective way to measure perceived discriminatory pre-trial and sentencing practices is to collect data regarding race for all criminal and traffic cases, both adult and juvenile. This remains undone. The lack of prioritization, the cost, and the complexity has impeded the implementation of the recommendations. Those challenges can be addressed and overcome as we work toward the goal of establishing a true, data-informed report on our courts.

    Coinciding with the recognition that data collection and analysis is essential to the path forward is a proposal to revise the Criminal Sentencing Commission to become the Criminal Justice Commission with expanded responsibilities, especially for the collection and study of criminal justice data. The data collection recommended in the report of the Commission on Racial Fairness can and should be conducted within the proposed Criminal Justice Commission.  The legislature has this proposal on its radar. Considering the need for data collection I trust that the modernization of this commission will receive the urgent attention it deserves.

    The changes advocated in this statement are only the beginning, one part of a very complicated solution that will require input from all stakeholders.

    There are many other ideas worthy of consideration as there is much work to be done:

    • Cameras in every courtroom to increase public access and awareness.
    • Development of jury education and training on implicit bias.
    • Use of registries other than voting records from which to summon potential jurors to ensure a more diverse pool.
    • Sentencing reform.
    • Pre-trial detention regardless of the ability to pay when the danger to a person or the community is great, and the release would be unsafe.
    • Pre-trial detention when the risk of flight is great.

    There are many more ideas that need consideration and conversation.

    It is long past time to address the recommendations contained in the Commission on Racial Fairness Report, and the Ohio Supreme Court’s history of failure to enact real substantive change in data collection, systemic equality, and self-examination.  We, as individuals and as the embodiment of an institution created to ensure fairness for ALL, must not let this opportunity go the way of the past.

    Ibram X. Kendi wrote in his 2019 book, “How to Be an Antiracist,” that racism is like a cancer and “before we can treat, we must believe.  Believe all is not lost for you and me and our society.  Believe in the possibility that we can strive to be antiracist from this day forward.”

    I believe that we can and must do better. Together, with the governor and the leadership of the Senate and House and the members of Ohio’s judiciary, we can clear that path forward so that the public’s trust in our judicial system increases and all those who find themselves before a judge believe that the system is fair.

  • 10 Jun 2020 3:39 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The Ohio Women's Bar Association and Ohio Women's Bar Foundation has joined the over 750+ list of leaders and organizations in Columbus in signing a letter to the Columbus City Council to support the resolution of declaring racism a public health crisis. To read the letter and add your signature in support click here

  • 10 Jun 2020 3:35 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The Ohio Women's Bar Association and Ohio Women's Bar Foundation Board of Trustees have signed the Cleveland Pledge to Promote Equity and Inclusion. Our Board of Trustees are committed to the following statements to promote equity and inclusion in our community: 

    • Being an informed voter and encouraging others to be informed voters.
    • Diversifying my news sources so that I am exposed to differing perspectives and points of view.
    • Keeping an open mind, reserving judgment, and engaging in civil civic dialogue.
    • Actively seeking out those with backgrounds different from my own and listening to their thoughts without judgment.
    • Forgiving words written or spoken in anger and seeking to understand the source of their discontent.
    • Participating in educational forums and civic engagement opportunities offered by organizations such as Cleveland Leadership Center, The City Club of Cleveland, Global Cleveland, Business Volunteers Unlimited, Cleveland Council on World Affairs, and Engage! Cleveland so to expand my thinking and gain better understanding of our community.
    • Pursuing opportunities to read and educate myself so I may speak with an informed voice to open the minds of others.

    To view the pledge and sign individually, click here.

  • 10 Jun 2020 3:27 PM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

    The Ohio Women's Bar Association and Ohio Women's Bar Foundation Board of Trustees fully support the statement made by the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati. We are proud to stand with the Cincinnati Bar Association and Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati in their response to the continued deaths of Black people. Click here to read the statement from BLAC. 

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