Chief Justice O’Connor Talks About ‘A Good Year’ and Sentencing Reform


Ohio Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor delivered her ninth State of the Judiciary Address on Thursday at the Ohio Judicial Conference. “Looking back over the past 12 months, I must say overall I think it’s been a good year since I last spoke with you.”

“We’ve had challenges that at times seem never ending, but the good news is that we as a judiciary are meeting those challenges as difficult as they are,” she said. “And doing so in a way that allows the influence of our work to continue to spread beyond the borders of Ohio.”

O’Connor noted that there were 63 new judges at the conference and that equated to 9% of the judiciary.

She pointed out the two new Justices who joined the Ohio Supreme Court last fall. The democrat judges defeated Republican candidates Craig Baldwin and Mary DeGenaro. Speaking of the new members, O’Connor stated, “It has truly been a pleasure to share the bench and the conference table with Justice [Michael] Donnelly and Justice [Melody] Stewart, great additions… It’s a good group to work together.”

The Chief Justice went on tell her audience about the importance of having a judiciary that is respected, as Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper 78, “‘The judiciary…has no influence over either the sword or the purse,’ and that’s by design. ‘The judiciary may truly be said to have neither force nor will, but merely judgement’.”

Because Ohio’s judiciary is respected, O’Connor explained, they were able to help defeat an ill-conceived Issue I on the ballot last fall.


Issue 1 attempted to change drug laws and sentencing to provide greater protection and leniency for drug offenders. O’Connor, while voicing her clear opposition to the Issue, nevertheless called for real sentencing reform through House Bill 1. As pointed out by a Dispatch tweet, “Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor calls for sentencing, bond reforms in annual speech…”

House Bill 1, jointly sponsored by Reps. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and Paula Hicks-Hudson (D- Toledo) would increase the use of “intervention in lieu of conviction” (ILC) in the courts, requiring judges to presume intervention first in cases where drugs and alcohol are involved during the commission of a crime.

“The road to rehabilitation from drug addiction can be long. Should this bill become law, it will grant a chance at success from those who travel that road.”

O’Connor’s final words included, “We have monumental tasks ahead of us, but I am encouraged because we are up to those tasks…Never have the burdens of the judiciary been greater, or the challenges to our authority been greater.”

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to [email protected].
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