Ohio has lost a treasured leader and advocate for fair and equal access to justice. Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer passed away at the age of 70 on Friday, April 2, 2010.
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Supreme Court of Ohio
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Supreme Court of Ohio
Chief Justice Moyer Remembered
Supreme Court of Ohio
Thomas J. Moyer Obituary and Guestbook
The Columbus Dispatch
Thoughts from the Local Legal Community
The Columbus Bar has lost not only one of its Past Presidents and strongest
supporters, but a truly great jurist who worked tirelessly to improve
professionalism, pro bono representation of those in need, and the practice of
law in Ohio. We are thankful that we were able to recently celebrate with him
the impact of his tremendous vision and leadership when he was presented with
the Columbus Bar Foundation's President's Award this past fall. He leaves an
unmatched legacy of leadership and service.
Elizabeth J. Watters, Columbus Bar Association President
He was Thomas J. Moyer, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, but to me and many others, he was Tom. Whether you were a political leader or a head of state or an immigrant with a deep foreign accent, he wanted you to call him "Tom." He fully appreciated the significance of his office, but he didn't let it dictate the manner in which he personally represented that significance. He was a justice for the people, because he was OF the people.
Before Tom became Chief Justice, before he became president of the Columbus Bar Association, he became my friend. He introduced me to the "other end" of Lake Erie, Sandusky Bay. I grew up in Mentor and had sailed Lake Erie from Fairport harbor. When Jane and I moved to Columbus, we had a difficult time adjusting to life away from the Lake. Tom was on the Columbus Bar board and that gave him the opportunity to point out to me that Sandusky was a half hour closer to sailing than was Fairport harbor. It became our port of call.
We sailed together some. He loved to sail. He liked fruit for breakfast, and I liked spam and eggs. We never fought over the helm, and we always agreed on the right point of sail.
How dedicated was he to his job? Back then he was Governor Rhodes's executive assistant, he was on call 24/7. No cell phones back in '78. That meant when we returned from a sail, he immediately went to a pay phone to make sure nothing needed his attention back in Columbus.
As president of the Columbus Bar, he was an advocate for more CLE for attorneys even before CLE was mandatory in Ohio. His carrot approach was to give special recognition to attorneys who completed nine hours of CLE a year. Legal services for the poor was another personal cause that didn't get much publicity then, and he was a strong proponent for the private bar stepping in to help.
Tom was an exceptional man - a teacher, leader, lawyer, advocate, jurist, sailor..... But perhaps more important than all of those things, he was a principled and honorable human being. Walt Whitman must have had someone like Tom in mind when he wrote...
Now finale to the shore,
Now land and life finale and farewell,
Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,)
Often enough hast thou adventur'd o'er the seas,
Cautiously cruising, studying the charts,
Duly again to port and hawser's tie returning;
But now obey thy cherish'd secret wish,
Embrace thy friends, leave all in order,
To port and hawser's tie no more returning,
Depart upon thy endless cruise old Sailor.
Alex Lagusch, Executive Director, Columbus Bar Association
News of Tom's death reached me late Friday evening from a mutual friend of ours who had gone to high school with Tom in Sandusky. Needless to say, I was shocked and saddened by the passing of a great jurist and a long time friend. As Chief Justice, Tom brought dignity, intellect, compassion and professionalism to a court that was in disarray and highly controversial at the time of his first election. I argued many cases in his court and I always felt that I had been treated with respect and I knew the case would be carefully considered by a court that was collegial, even-handed and fair to both sides. The fact that he served for a quarter of a century as Chief Justice speaks volumes to his abilities as a jurist and a court administrator. It is a shame that he has been denied the chance to enjoy retirement with his devoted wife, Mary, but his legacy as Ohio's top jurist will live on for many years to come. The citizens of Ohio and the legal profession have suffered a great loss.
Gerald Draper, Past President, Columbus and Ohio State Bar Associations
In 2005, Chief Justice Moyer appointed me to serve as a member of the newly formed Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Interpreter Services. From the very beginning, the Chief Justice impressed upon Committee members the importance of our work to facilitate fairness for non-English speaking and hearing-impaired persons appearing in Ohio courts. It has not been easy, but the Committee has accomplished much in these past five years, raising the standards for foreign language and American Sign Language court interpreters, educating judges and lawyers on how to work with interpreters, and translating 27 commonly-used court forms into five major languages. There is still more to do, but we could not have done what we already have done without the Chief's direction and leadership. The Interpreter Services Advisory Committee is one example of Chief Justice Moyer's many efforts to ensure due process and fairness in all Ohio courts. Other examples include his establishment of the Task Force on Pro Se & Indigent Litigants and the Racial Fairness Implementation Task Force. By initiating and presiding over these efforts, the Chief was looking out for the most vulnerable in our courts - ensuring that they too are treated fairly and with respect. All Ohioans were very well-served by Thomas J. Moyer. It was my honor and privilege to work with the Chief on the Interpreter Services Advisory Committee and to serve with him as a member of the Ohio Judiciary. I am thankful for and have learned from his commitment to due process and fairness. I will miss Chief Justice Moyer.
Julia L. Dorrian, Judge, Franklin County Municipal Court
My memories of Tom are truly some of my most treasured - not only was he an extraordinary jurist, he was simply a wonderful person to be around. His unpretentious demeanor as Chief Justice was evident in so many of the times we shared. One summer, a couple years ago, Tom and Mary joined Lucy and me on a brief vacation. As luck would have it, when we were returning the Moyers to the airport, I was stopped for speeding. As the officer approached, Tom became visibly concerned - not with what the officer would say, but understandably with what my response might be. I knew Tom would not have appreciated me telling the officer that I most certainly was justified in my rush to deliver the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio to the airport ... so I didn't and I got the ticket to prove it. Tom was never one who reached his destinations - either that day on vacation or throughout his life - by flaunting his position or touting his achievements. Tom was a true and humble gentleman. It was a privilege to have known him as "Chief" but a greater privilege to have called him "friend".
Samuel Porter, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP
Tom was an exceptional person. We were so fortunate to have him as a friend and mentor. He played such a private role in both our personal and professional lives.
As young lawyers, Tom, in his capacity as executive assistant to Governor Rhodes, gave us the opportunity to serve the State of Ohio and at the same time, enjoy his companionship and dry humor. As we grew professionally in our service, Tom was always there to support and guide us in his quiet but insightful way.
To spend time with Tom and hear him laugh was pure joy. Whether it was an after hours telephone call, being on his boat on Lake Erie or sharing a meal with others, Tom was interested in exploring the ideas of all while maintaining an infectious wit so unique to him. Tom truly cared about everyone and would extend his assistance to anyone in need.
As we all know, Tom was the ultimate professional lawyer and jurist. He loved the law and he instilled that love in both of us. We became better lawyers because of his gentle but firm guidance.
As we reflect on our long friendship with Tom, we recognize that he was a friend without equal. He was always the first to offer support in our personal lives in both good and bad times. We are feeling a deep sadness and will truly miss out friend.
Having read the poem, "Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson and thinking of the sailor Tom, the following paraphrased excerpts were recently forwarded for his reading: We are growing old men, but I think we have one more good sail in us. I will sail beyond the sunset and the baths of all the western stars until I die.
It was Ulysses' intention to strive, to seek, and to find and not to yield.
On March 11, Tom responded, "Tennyson had it right, did he not."
Bill Newcomb and Robin Ratchford
David and I were fortunate to have been friends of Tom's for more than 30 years. Being of a different political party than he, we teased him about our many times opposite points of view on current affairs. He gave as good as he got.
Though we did not meet regularly, we were part of a "lunch bunch" that did have a lot of fun when we did meet in an informal setting where we could discuss anything that was raised for the good of the order. Many people can speak well and eloquently about Tom as a jurist, but what I will miss most is his wry sense of humor and the twinkle in his eye as he gently retorted to a teasing remark. It was very clear that he loved his jurist responsibilities. Whether one agreed with him all the time or not was not the point---he was thoughtful, careful and fair in rendering his decisions. He was absolutely ethical in his position of public trust. One could not ask for more in "the chief."
He was very fortunate to have Mary in his life and we are thinking of her during this difficult time.
Sally and David Bloomfield
On behalf of our 1,550 Judge, Magistrate, Attorney, Legal Administrator, Paralegal and Law Student Members, the Dayton Bar Association wishes to express its sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer. His legacy of leadership will be missed by all.
William B. Wheeler, Executive Director, Dayton Bar Association / Foundation
When I think about the many, positive, enduring accomplishments Tom Moyer achieved during his distinguished career, his scholarship, his thoughtful judicial demeanor, and his visionary leadership on the bench and in the broader legal community, one attribute of his in particular stands out. Tom Moyer was one of those rare individuals in high public office who remained, on a personal level, as modest and unassuming at the end of his career as the day he started. Despite the lengthy list of his achievements and his well-deserved accolades, the remarkably unpretentious way he had of interacting with everyone around him never changed. He will be a continuing source of inspiration for those who knew him, and I am very proud to be numbered among them.
Richard Simpson, Bricker & Eckler LLP
Like countless others, I considered Chief Justice Thomas Moyer to be a role model and mentor. Many fond memories flood back amidst the sadness over his passing. I vividly recall looking into his kind, steady, blue eyes as he administered the oath of office to me as CBA president. Enjoying his well-crafted speeches (even including jokes at his own expense) to the OSBA, the General Assembly, the CBA and other venues. Running into him at OSU stadium or on the sidewalk downtown and feeling welcome and comfortable in casual conversation. Looking forward to his questions during oral argument because he could always be counted on to be well-prepared and to get to the heart of the matter. Feeling proud of the work he did and the projects he spear-headed to improve our system of justice, with determination, good faith and even warmth in the face of sometimes hostile opposition to change. The State of Ohio is a much better place thanks to Chief Justice Moyer's many contributions. This wise, clear-eyed, brilliant and gentle man made an enormous difference during his time with us. I am so sad that his time did not last much, much longer.
Sandra Anderson, Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease LLP
I met Tom Moyer when he was an assistant to Governor James A. Rhodes in the early 1970s. At the time, my observation of him was that he was quiet, always well-prepared and Gov. Rhodes appreciated the manner in which Tom went about carrying out the Governor's work. He and the Governor didn't hesitate to disagree. The Governor always had so many new ideas that Tom's restraining advice was often very helpful. When the vacancy came up on the Franklin County Court of Appeals, Tom asked for the appointment. The Governor felt that Tom had demonstrated the ability and the temperament to be a good judge. When Tom ran for Supreme Court, that court was in disarray and, as we all know, Tom "righted the course" so to speak, leading the court to the respected status it has today. In my appearances before the court, Tom always treated me and the other lawyers involved with respect. Tom's ability and experience as a sailor were influential in molding his personality and his leadership style. A few years ago, I heard him deliver a paper on the Battle of Lake Erie. It was a thoughtful discussion of how Commodore Perry saved the Northwest for the United States. While I had the pleasure of sailing with Tom Moyer several times on Lake Erie, it is his exemplary professional performance throughout his career that comes to mind when I think of him.
Jack Chester, Chester Willcox & Saxbe LLP
I knew Tom Moyer as a man of great intellect, but great humility and warmth. He was always very nice to me and seemed to go out of way for a personal greeting whenever I saw him. He championed great causes like merit selection of justices and the linking of Ohio courts in as efficient a manner as possible. He was the driving force behind the renovation of the Ohio Judicial Center, which is a treasured building that we will have because of Tom. He will be greatly missed, not only as a jurist, but for all the public service that he was capable of rendering after his retirement from the Court.
Nelson Genshaft, Strip Hoppers Leithart McGrath & Terlecky Co., LPA
I have very fond memories of working with Chief Justice Moyer on the acquisition of a work of art for the Supreme Court's collection. Chief Justice Moyer recognized the importance the arts could play in people's lives and he took a personal interest in making sure the Supreme Court building reflected this. He was instrumental in the painstaking preservation of the building, its art, fixtures, and decor and also in acquiring an art collection that showcases outstanding Ohio artists. He also made sure that the people who worked in the building had an opportunity to learn about the art by having his staff arrange lunchtime dialogues with the artists. In addition to his outstanding contributions to the legal community, his respect and interest in the arts will remain a significant legacy to the people of Ohio.
On behalf of the members and staff of the Toledo Bar Association, we wish to offer the family and friends of Chief Justice Moyer our sincere sympathies on their loss. While one could disagree with the legal position taken by the chief in a given opinion, no one could question his integrity. We will miss Chief Justice Moyer's leadership on many issues dealing with the practice of law in Ohio and the administration of justice. The leaders of the metropolitan bars of Ohio will also miss interacting with him - especially at our annual breakfasts during the OSBA conventions - as he truly cared about our members.
James E. Yavorcik, President, Toledo Bar Association
I first met Chief Justice Moyer in 1983 when I was a law clerk for Judge Alan Norris on the 10th District Court of Appeals. Impressive as he was as a jurist, I recall being struck by his involvement and leadership in many bar and civic activities. Chief Justice Moyer was an example that public service was more than holding an elected or appointed position, but included service to your profession and community.
I joined the Supreme Court staff in 1989 and for the next 21 years had the good fortune to have Chief Justice Moyer as a mentor and role model. I observed his benevolent nature, his patience, and his fairness. I better understood the importance of integrity, humility, and collaboration. These were valuable lessons for a young lawyer, and they remain with me today.
Chief Justice Moyer also was a client, and a wonderful one at that. He sought advice before, not after, the fact. He offered thoughts and an occasional dissent, but trusted your judgment and counsel. Nothing makes you a more careful and diligent lawyer than having the Chief Justice as a client.
The Supreme Court staff remembers Chief Justice Moyer for his leadership, friendliness, accessibility, and love for the law. We miss him greatly and will endeavor to continue his unfinished work and strive to measure up to the high standard of personal conduct that he set for us all.
Rick Dove, Assistant Administrative Director, Supreme Court of Ohio
The people of Ohio have lost not only an outstanding jurist, but a truly dedicated and hard working public servant. For many of us, we have also lost a friend and a mentor.
As a first year law student in the spring of 1974, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Tom Moyer during his time in private practice with Crabbe Brown. He was a volunteer on the Columbus Bar Association committee charged with conducting those interviews, the first step in one's admission to the Ohio Bar. My mother had known Tom in her role as one of the original board members of the Council for Retarded Children, and she had great respect for him and his community service.
Little did I know that, less than two years into my legal career in 1978, I would again have the privilege of being interviewed by Tom, by then the Executive Assistant to Governor James A. Rhodes. This interview was for the position of Deputy Assistant to the Governor, a position he had held in Governor Rhodes' second term from December 1969 until January 1971. I distinctly remember one question he asked me during that interview: "Do you enjoy doing legal research?" After a pregnant pause, the honest (and correct) answer came out - "Yes!"
That night, not able to sleep, I re-read the Ohio Constitution. Within a few days, I got the job.
Under Tom's steady hand and tutelage, I was honored to help with the awesome responsibility of representing the Governor in the many legal
issues that arose in state government on a daily basis. Tom moved on
to the Franklin County Court of Appeals in 1979, beginning a remarkable judicial career, and the rest of us moved around in, and eventually out of, state government.
I will always remember Tom as a mentor, a great boss, a friend, and as an example for all of us of an outstanding public servant. My heartfelt sympathies go out to Mary, to Drew, to the extended Moyer family, and to the Court and to its excellent Staff, of which he was deservingly proud.
Jon F. Kelly, AT&T
My First Two Mentors
Oh where are you now that we need you?
What burns where the flame used to be?
Only Our Rivers Run Free, Mickey MacConnell
We recently lost two great judges - Dean Strausbaugh and Tom Moyer. Lawyers from across Ohio are feeling this loss. Their passing has a special meaning to me because I've lost my first two mentors as a lawyer.
Dean Strausbaugh was still on the Franklin County Court of Appeals when I first started clerking for him in May of 1985. He was admitted to practice in 1948 and had been serving on the Court of Appeals since 1969. Prior to being elected to that court he served as a Franklin County Municipal Court judge for thirteen years. But he was no stuffy or stern figure even with 29 years of service as judge when I met him. Instead, he was a gregarious individual, who enjoyed a good laugh. And though he was entitled to respect from his position, he earned it with his approach to people and life in general. He was the consummate gentleman.
Shortly after starting work for him, I often referred to him as "your honor." He pulled me aside one day and asked that I not call him that, because it sounded like "your holiness," or other such titles that he did not feel comfortable with. From then on, it was simply "judge." This easy-going nature left him open to many pranks.
I remember a prank played by Judge Alan Norris and then-judge Tom Moyer. I remember it because it involved me. Apparently, Judge Strausbaugh was thrilled to have a law clerk from his college social fraternity- we both were members of Delta Tau Delta. It had to be the first week I was there fulltime as his law clerk. Judges Norris and Moyer posted a big sign over the front door to his chambers that said, I believe, National Headquarters of Tappa Keg A Day. Judge Strausbaugh enjoyed the prank and had a hearty laugh at his own expense. He left the sign up all day so that everyone could see it.
My favorite memory, though, has to be when the Columbus Dispatch wrote an article noting that he was the most senior elected official in Franklin County. I poked my head into his office with a look of concern and told him that the Dispatch had just described him as "the most senile judge in Franklin County." He just looked at me and said "What on earth!" He looked for a copy of the paper around the court and could not find one. He came to my office and asked again what it said and I repeated my line. Judge Whiteside overheard the conversation and said, "No, Dean, they said that you were the oldest elected official in Franklin County." After he found a copy of the article, he had it blown up so large that to this day I wondered where he found a copier that could do the job. He then highlighted the part about being the "most senior elected official" and hung copies up all over the Court offices.
Imagine a brand new lawyer having fun at a senior judge's expense. But that was Judge Strausbaugh - he was so comfortable with himself that he long ago mastered his ego. He enjoyed a good laugh, even at his own expense. In this regard, he was the epitome of what we should look for in judges. He understood his role - that he was not infallible, and that he answered to the voters for his behavior. He was humble, he cared for others, and he also understood that ultimately he answered to an authority far higher than any worldly court.
The Chief Justice was in some respects a bit different than Judge Strausbaugh. He seemed more reserved and quiet. But that low key demeanor hid a keen, subtle wit. It is no surprise that the two men were close friends. They complimented each other in some outwardly ways. For example, they both loved the water. Judge Strausbaugh motored on Buckeye Lake. The Chief sailed on Lake Erie.
Internally, they were quite similar. They both had an intense commitment to the law, to public service, and to living their faith in words and deeds. Judge Strausbaugh was the first person to encourage the Chief to run for the post. Judge Strausbaugh looked around at our court system in the 1980's and did not like what he saw. He believed the system needed a person of integrity, a leader, to correct the many missteps then occurring. He could think of only one person, his good friend Tom Moyer.
Many people have forgotten the controversies of that era involving the Supreme Court. Perhaps that is the best tribute we can give Tom Moyer for his service as Chief Justice. Lawyers in 1986 were actually afraid to be known as supporting him for Chief Justice. Can anyone imagine feeling that way 24 years later?
I first met the Chief when I clerked at the Court of Appeals. He was sitting as a judge on that court since 1979. By the time I joined the court in 1985, newspapers across the state were frequently carrying articles about the turmoil involving the Supreme Court. Tom Moyer decided to run for the office at a time when very few people thought he had a chance to win. Fortunately he did win and the Court, and the State, are better for it.
When he won, I begged the Chief to take me with him and he did. After working as a master commissioner for about a year, the Chief asked if I would serve as his administrative assistant I jumped at the chance to work directly for him. I served in that capacity until February, 1994.
In that role, I traveled around the state with him as he attended speaking events, bar meetings, and swore in local officials. Wherever we went, people were always impressed with his accessibility, his approachability, his demeanor. They always responded to the fact that he was a very decent person, a down to earth guy in an important job. And I think that's why they kept sending him back at election time. All who met him instinctively knew that they were in good hands with the Chief at the helm of this great institution. To me, he personified the word integrity.
On the bench, Chief Justice Moyer was always courteous to counsel appearing before the Court. It was an attribute often mentioned to me by those same lawyers. His commitment to integrity was highlighted by the importance he placed on swearing judges and lawyers into their positions. These oaths were important because they were public acknowledgements of the great duties and responsibilities these individuals were undertaking. He enjoyed talking to people about the historic importance of publicly swearing oaths.
His greatest support came from the judges of Ohio. I was impressed with how often judges who were Democrats asked the Chief, a Republican, to swear them in. I think many judges liked the idea of someone who, as Chief Justice, enjoyed being a judge and worked to make the judiciary more respected throughout Ohio. I chuckled whenever anyone approached me to ask whether the Chief wanted to be a senator, or would run for governor. They seemed not to grasp that Tom Moyer believed he had the best job an Ohio lawyer born, raised, and educated here could ever have. Perhaps that is why he excelled at the job.
At the same time, as Chief Justice he was always respectful of the other branches of government, and to those who held elected office. He understood that the need for civility was not limited to the courtroom or the legal system. He understood that his role required him to keep open the lines of communication. He never issued a diatribe disguised as a judicial opinion. He patiently listened to the opinions of others. Even after serving for many years as Chief Justice, Tom Moyer did not demand respect as the price of admission to see or talk to him. In his quiet way, he went about his job earning the plaudits and praise now being heaped upon his memory.
I wonder whether these two men realized that they were role models for the people around them. Did they know that we were watching and learning from their examples?
From these two great judges I learned, I hope, a great deal about the law and being a lawyer. Each of them had a sense of obligation - public service was not only a duty but a privilege. Public office was a trust that had to be honored. Law as a profession was a noble and important calling.
From them I learned that I should always treat other lawyers and their clients courteously. I should respect a judge even when strenuously disagreeing with a ruling. I should not abuse witnesses or clients. I should understand the great responsibility given to all lawyers as officers of the courts. No matter my personal or political bias, I should always give my best professional judgment, even if it might make the recipient unhappy.
I think when we first become lawyers, we seek out experienced people in whom we place trust. We look for people to model ourselves after. These role models help us find our place in the world. They help us to figure out where we fit in. They ultimately help us define what we aspire to be in our professional, and even our personal, lives.
I admit that these two mentors set a high standard to reach. I claim no success in doing so. I only admit only to aspiring to reach those lofty standards. Every day in our professional practice we are faced with issues and challenges that test who we are, what we believe. Hopefully the lessons our mentors taught us help us to behave as the professionals that we hope we are.
It makes me wonder why I still have not filled out my application to mentor a new lawyer. I am certain that I will not be as worthy a mentor as mine were, but I now understand what they knew. Our profession has obligations, and this is an important one. So, I am going to complete that application and submit it. And I am going to remember to thank those mentors that I still have for all they have given me.
In the faith that we three shared, we are told that our Father's house has many rooms. I think that these two men are nearby each other. And when I think of these two, I see good friends, boating on Buckeye Lake in the morning with Judge Strausbaugh at the wheel, and sailing on Lake Erie in the afternoon with the Chief tacking into a fair wind. And if Saint Peter wants to take a break from his gatekeeper duties, there are two decent men, honest and fair judges, who can take his station for a bit.
Farewell Judge. Farewell Chief. Your deaths have left this world a lesser place than it used to be. But we will carry on - such is life. I will pray, and I hope you do too, that we will see their like again.
Arthur J. Marziale, Jr., Director of Legal Resources, The Supreme Court of Ohio