POMEROY — Students in Gallia and Meigs counties took part in a historic event Wednesday as the Ohio Supreme Court visited Meigs High School as part of its off-site court public program.
The program features supreme court justices engaged in actual court arguments that would create interpretations of law to reverberate throughout the state.
Justices addressed students from Meigs High School, Southern High School, Eastern High School and Mid-Valley Christian School. South Gallia and Ohio Valley Christian students also attended the discussion and case arguments. Justices had a question-and-answer session with students before arguments were held. This was the first recorded visit of the Ohio Supreme Court to Meigs County.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor addressed students first and introduced her fellow justices. All justices gave brief introductions of themselves and their career highlights.
One student in the crowd asked why the justices originally became lawyers and what led them to pursue careers in law. Some justices responded that they had not originally considered careers in law. One was a teacher, another a police officer and another a military service member, as well as registered nurse. Justices encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities no matter where they may arise. A common theme emerged that the want and desire to help individuals and affect lives was shared among the justices. Problems needed solving, attorneys, judges and justices are often the arbiters of the fate of everyday people, they said.
“Remember, the only person who can shut a door for your future is yourself by doing something at this age, something in college, something later on that is going to preclude you from moving and attaining your goals,” O’Connor said.
Justice Terrence O’Donnell emphasized that being an attorney and a justice often means an individual needs strong verbal and written communication skills. He said being a justice is an intellectual pursuit and that being on one’s toes is integral to a position on the Ohio Supreme Court. Sometimes oral skill may be integral to winning a favorable decision for a client. Not all law work is adversarial, many attorneys work with contracts or help oversee estates of the those who have died.
“The notion of going to law school is something that will give you an ability to think logically, an ability to analyze clearly and to express yourself,” O’Donnell said. “Those are skills that will serve in any endeavor that you get into for a career.”
“I think one of the other motivators (to enter law) for all of us is that lawyers help people solve problems that they could not solve themselves,” O’Connor said. “If people did not have problems, we wouldn’t have jobs. People get themselves in situations sometimes unwittingly and sometimes for a variety of reasons. I’m not just talking about criminal issues. Nobody really wants to go to court, but sometimes they have to go to court to solve their problems and they can’t negotiate without help and that’s one of the things lawyers do. Lawyers help navigate the legal system to preserve (citizens’) rights when people are in danger of losing property or liberty or interest. One of the attractive things about judges is that you solve problems for people.”
Justices told students it is their job to guard the legal system and that encompasses considering criminal cases as well as others.
One student asked judges if they had ever felt like walking away from their position. Justices replied that this was the kind of job from which one does not walk away. Sure, they are frustrated some days, however, the public needs them and that is not something to be taken lightly.
Justices visited Meigs County’s first court house after having a lunch with participating attorneys and the Meigs Bar Association. The old Meigs County courthouse rests in Chester and is the oldest standing courthouse in Ohio and the Northwest Territory, according to volunteers with courthouse preservation.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740 446-2342, Ext. 2103.