Traveling to all 88 counties in the state of Ohio is no small task, but to Justice Judith French it’s just another day in the office. The Ohio Supreme Court Justice completed a tour of Ohio in 2013 and is finishing another in 2014, just in time for the Nov. 4 elections.
French, an experienced Ohio Supreme Court justice, looks to keep her position, to which she was appointed by Governor John Kasich in December 2012. She hopes to be elected to serve the full six-year term of a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.
Before she was appointed as the 155th justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, French held numerous positions within the legal system, including serving under Governor Bob Taft as chief legal counsel and working with Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, according to the biography on her website. While working for the attorney general, French argued two cases in the United States Supreme Court, one of which was the Cleveland school vouchers case, which attempted to ensure an equitable education opportunity for every Ohio student. In this case, French advocated for elementary-age school students who were otherwise without options when it came to their education.
“I’m a committed public servant who is dedicated to making the legal system work for all individuals,” French states on her website. In an interview, French said, “The Ohio Supreme Court should do a better job engaging with the public about its important role in their daily lives. I believe in educating the public and serving as a resource to Ohio’s teachers and students so they may better understand both the Ohio Supreme Court and our judicial system. I am proud to speak frequently to civic organizations and student groups throughout Ohio.”
French has more than 25 years of legal experience and worked in both corporate and private-practice settings. In the interview, she simply put it that “experience matters.” She also stated that as a sitting justice, she is well suited to continue serving Ohioans on the Supreme Court.
This statement was made to contest declarations made by French’s opponent, John P. O’Donnell, who argues that the mostly Republican Supreme Court needs a fresh perspective, which he, as a Democrat, can provide. French refuted his urge for a new outlook by saying, “I believe my judicial philosophy is the strongest asset that I bring to the Court. I believe that judges must respect precedent and standards of review; we do not venture outside them unnecessarily.”
In October, French was a guest speaker at a Greene County Republican Party Xenia Women’s Club event, where she spoke to the public about the workings of the judicial system. Brenda Lewis, a Xenia Republican Women’s Club member, attended.
“Compassion for the people,” Lewis enthusiastically stated over the phone, is the greatest asset that French brings to the Ohio courts system. She also said that French’s experience gives her an advantage over the competition, but aside from her résumé, Lewis also said, “I think she would be fair regardless” and continued on to describe Justice French as a “hard worker.”
If French were to be re-elected for the six-year term on the Supreme Court, she said, “I will continue to expand my education efforts to schools and other parties in an effort to help Ohioans better understand the Ohio Supreme Court.” She also foresees a need to address the drug issues, specifically heroin addiction, that she learned about while on her 88 county tour of Ohio, but “cases involving energy, especially cases involving oil and gas exploration in eastern Ohio, will dominate our docket for years to come,” French further predicted.
According to French, there is no such thing as a “normal day” while on the campaign trail. Her responsibility to the court comes first, but until Election Day, in her spare time, she will continue to speak and educate various organizations throughout Ohio, partisan and non-partisan.