Supreme Court justice visits UL

MORRISTOWN – Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French visited Union Local High School on Wednesday morning to discuss her life, her career, and the role of the Supreme Court with the school’s Junior State of America chapter. She also answered questions from the students and the group’s advisor, Tracie Yereb.

French began by explaining the Supreme Court’s role in government and what her job as a justice entails. She detailed the significance of seating and speaking arrangements, and described the Ohio Supreme Court as cordial and professional, but lively as well.

French was born and raised in Sebring, Ohio. She attended Ohio State University and earned not only her undergraduate degree but also a Master’s degree and a law degree there. French emphasized to the students that the path to becoming a justice is not based on connections, but rather hard work and achievement.

“This is a dream job for me,” she said. “I love working with the court. My message to the students was that this is not a position of privilege, it’s something that you strive for.”

French’s first job was at McDonald’s, and from there she went on the work for a law firm, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ohio Attorney General. She served on the Franklin County Court of Appeals for eight years before Gov. Kasich appointed her to the Supreme Court to replace a retiree last January. French will need to run for election in November. If she is elected, she will serve a six-year term.

French explained to students how the terms conservative and liberal mean different things when applied to justices instead of legislators. Conservatives prefer to use a judge’s decisive power minimally, while liberals generally prefer to use it more broadly to try to resolve policy issues. She also told students that political parties have little bearing on the decisions made by justices.

“I have never had a case where political party mattered,” she said.

Candidates are not even identified as Republican or Democrat on the election ballot. French also explained that while judges can strike down policies as unconstitutional, they are not obligated to create new ones. That responsibility rests with legislators.

“We resolve disputes between two parties, not social issues,” said French.

French said that the Ohio Supreme Court accepts approximately100 cases per year, and they try to choose cases which serve the general interest and cross county lines. All cases are webcast live and archived online; French said she is proud of the accessibility.

After leaving Union Local, French traveled to Bethesda to speak at the Bethesda-Belmont-Morristown Rotary Club meeting. She spoke again about her career and detailed activities of the Supreme Court for club members.

Of seven Supreme Court Justices, French is the only one who lives in Columbus. She makes an effort to travel around Ohio, and in the past year she has visited all 88 counties.

Warner may be reached at