January 14, 2011
Installation of Chief Justice and New Justice - Historic Occasion
Maureen O’Connor, on January 1, 2011, became the first woman Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court in the 207-year history of the state. Justice Paul E. Pfeifer administered the oath of office to her during a public swearing-in ceremony January 7 in the Supreme Court courtroom at the Ohio Judicial Center.
Last November Ohio voters elected Chief Justice O’Connor to a six-year term as the Supreme Court’s 10th Chief Justice. She was first elected to the Court in 2002, became the 148th Justice to the Court when her term began in 2003 and was the sixth woman to join the Court, giving the Court its first-ever female majority. O’Connor was re-elected in 2008 and elected Chief Justice in 2010 to replace the retiring Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer. Sadly, Chief Justice Moyer died April 2, 2010, before he could finish his fourth and final term.
O’Connor said she’s looking forward to continuing the work with her colleagues on addressing the Court’s share of the budget burden that’s facing the state in the next biennium. “Without question, each branch of government will undergo some degree of belt-tightening while still delivering high quality services,” she said. “We are poised to make those difficult decisions strategically, collaboratively and soundly.”
The Ohio judicial community and the city of Columbus joined together to honor Yvette McGee Brown, the first African-American woman Justice in the 207-year history of the Supreme Court of Ohio. Gov. Ted Strickland administered the Oath of Office to her during a public swearing-in ceremony at The King Arts Complex in the Near East Side neighborhood where Justice McGee Brown was raised.
More than 700 people overflowed the theater and adjoining rooms of the King Arts Complex for the event and a reception that followed. Justice McGee Brown’s family, former teachers, and friends were on hand for the celebration.
Among those joining the new Justice and Gov. Strickland on the stage and offering remarks were Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Ohio State Bar Association President Carmen V. Roberto, and Judge Nathaniel R. Jones of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Justice McGee Brown well since her appointment,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “I’m happy to call her a colleague, excited that such an accomplished, respected public servant has joined the Court, and looking forward to tackling the important work we have ahead of us in a collaborative manner with her and the other members of the Court.”
The invocation and benediction were offered by the Rev. Bishop Timothy J. Clarke of the First Church of God, Columbus. Dozens of Justice McGee Brown’s sorority sisters were in the audience, and several members of the leadership of the Alpha Sigma Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority made a special presentation to Justice McGee Brown at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Gov. Strickland appointed former judge McGee Brown to the Supreme Court on Dec. 10 and she assumed the office on Jan. 1. A seat became open on the Court when voters elected Justice Maureen O’Connor as Chief Justice in November.
Justice McGee Brown was first elected to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations and Juvenile division in 1992. As lead juvenile court judge, she led the creation of the Family Drug Court and the SMART Program, truancy and educational neglect intervention program. She served on the court until 2002, when she retired from the bench to create the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The center is a multi-disciplinary child abuse and family violence program that co-locates prevention, assessment, treatment, research and advocacy services for children and families experiencing abuse. She served as founding president until early 2010, when she became a candidate for lieutenant governor of Ohio.
McGee Brown said she was honored to join the Court during historic times. “I have tremendous respect for the Court and the important role it has in our democracy,” she said. “I am humbled by this opportunity and consider it a privilege to serve with the other distinguished jurists on the Court.”
McGee Brown follows former Justices Robert M. Duncan and Lloyd O. Brown as the third African-American member of Ohio’s high court and is the eighth woman to serve on the Court. With her appointment, the Court has its third ever female majority.