Speeches

Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer
Ohio State Bar Annual Meeting

May 13, 2004

I appreciate this opportunity to once again speak to the leadership of the State Bar.

Although this is the 17th time I have addressed the annual meeting as Chief Justice, I do not take this opportunity for granted. The current relationship between the bench and bar is vibrant and productive. One we can all be proud of.

I have worked closely with President Ashmus on a number of issues, in particular judicial campaign reform and an increased role of the organized bar in professional activities.

I look forward to working with Heather Sowald, who served on the dedication committee.

Congratulations to Jane Taylor for your election and to Bea Sowald, Virginia Trethaway and Mike Murman.

I have to admit the Rock and Roll theme did not seem to have a readily apparent relevance to the practice of law.

As one walks through the Hall of Fame, they look at the displays celebrating Springsteen and Dylan, then see the salute to Aretha Franklin. You can even read some of the hand-written music by Elton John.

Nothing. I just could not see the connection… that is until we see the display on Jim Hendrix. I walked a little farther, there was Jim Morrison, and nearby was Janis Joplin.

Drugs. Indictments. There it is.

Somewhere criminal defense attorneys have dedicated wings of their house to rock and roll. That may be the connection.

On Saturday I hope you can join us in Columbus for a historic moment when the Chief Justice of the United States, William Rehnquist, will help us dedicate the new home of the Ohio judiciary.

Many of you have heard it said that a courthouse communicates the ideals and aspirations of a society, that the building should tell all who enter, that it is a setting for the peaceful and fair resolution of disputes. The new Ohio Judicial Center, though designed 75 years ago as a state office building, is a fitting monument to the rule of law.

It was as if Cincinnati architect, Harry Hake, had a dream that the building would some day symbolize majesty of the law.

Typical of architectural design of the era, when public buildings reflected the greatness of the people they served--- Hake blended art and architecture to honor the history of Ohio , starting with the first settlers. The ground floor is a tribute to Native Americans, with bas-reliefs of Tecumseh, Pontiac, Logan and Little Turtle.

Here is one example of the level of research conducted by the sculptor,

Paul Fjelde. That is a lacrosse stick in the relief of Pontiac . Native Americans invented lacrosse as conditioning exercise to prepare for battle.

The public area of the ground floor uses all natural materials, in much the same fashion that Native Americans would have used naturally created stones and metals. It is only when you get to the Grand Concourse and European influences that you will observe artificial coloring.

The Grand Concourse is lined with book-matched Italian marble, serving as a gallery for bas-reliefs of the eight Ohio presidents, nine Supreme Court justices and two speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the three months that the building has been open, more than four-thousand people have toured the court, most of them students. Teachers praise the educational value of the artwork---all of it expressing the history of Ohio .

One former occupant remembered working in the building before there was air conditioning. To cool off, the workers would visit the nearby Palace Theater, which was cooled by large blocks of ice.

One gentleman who grew-up just across the Scioto River told how as a young boy, he and his friends would skip school to play in the reflecting pools, which have been restored and will eventually display the impressive pieces of sculpture commissioned by the Ohio Bar Foundation that will help identify the building as a courthouse.

The courtroom is also wired with digital video cameras, providing for the Internet and broadcast distribution of oral arguments. Now anybody with a broadband Internet connection is able to watch arguments in real time, and they are archived on our Web site for viewing at a later time.

The most frequent question is “what's behind the red curtain?” Some have guessed that there is a movie screen. Actually, the blank wall behind the drapery was once used by the censorship board to view films.

The courtroom murals were painted by Rudolph Scheffler, who liked to say that the room was “even longer than Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.”

The murals are a rare example of using both realism and stylized artwork in the same setting. The ceiling murals are of the original states of the Northwest Territory and are painted in the Renaissance style. Ohio is symbolized here with Mercury, messenger of the gods, leading a stallion which symbolizes the Ohio Company that settled much of the Northwest Territory .

The wall murals are more realistic, showing scenes in Ohio history, and in the one at the far end of the courtroom, a depiction of the first settlers at Marietta .

There are 61 murals in the building, including those in the library reading rooms. The artwork in the library will be supplemented by a generous gift from the Ohio State Bar Association.

Scheffler also painted the vestibule ceiling panels, “Constellations”, and this one shown here, “Eight Winds.”

One of the remarkable features of the building is that much of it survived intact despite years of use by various state agencies and disinterest in true value. The chairs in the courtroom, for example, are original. We had them reupholstered.

Most of the artwork restoration involved cleaning the soot and smoke that you would expect in a building that is more than 70 years old.

The building was neglected, dark and dreary but when I proposed that it be renovated to serve as the home of the third branch of state government, Justice Resnick said she had driven by it many times and thought it could be an excellent Supreme Court building.

Now I would like to take a few moments to discuss current issues.

Pro Se

Judge Learned Hand once issued a sobering warning, “Thou shall not ration justice.”

The leaders of the various judicial associations in Ohio and others have made a convincing argument that a growing number of citizens are coming to the courts without benefit of a lawyer, either because they choose not to use one, or because they cannot afford an attorney.

That is why I have created the Task Force on Pro Se and Indigent Litigants, which will hold its first meeting tomorrow. The Task Force is chaired by John Adkins, Circleville Municipal Court judge, and the Vice Chair is Kim Shumate. Tom Weeks will represent the Ohio State Bar.

It is my hope that the Task Force will review programs that assist indigent litigants, while avoiding the ethical problem of the unauthorized practice of law.

In Massachusetts , probate and family courts have organized attorney volunteers to assist citizens representing themselves.

Maricopa County , Arizona has made available computer kiosks to citizens in need of legal help.

In Maryland , every attorney indicates on their registration renewal the number of hours of pro bono services they have provided or financial assistance they have given.

In Ohio , the Advocates For Basic Legal Equality, better known as ABLE, operate an automated telephone program that provides intake and assistance to pro se and indigent users in a 30 county area from Toledo to Dayton .

The Legal Aid Line provides automated access to legal forms and allows for around the clock client intake, and is funded by an increase in the allocation of attorney registration fees to the Legal Assistance Foundation.

The task force needs to engage in a comprehensive review of pro se and indigent litigation and make recommendations to address the difficult issues it will find.

Task Force on Jury Service

The Task Force on Jury Service has made its recommendations to improve the jury process. The most notable give the juror a more active role in the trial process, allowing them to take notes, and ask questions screened by the judge.

The complete report can be found on the Supreme Court Web site, www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Publications/juryTF/jurytf_proposal.pdf Adobe PDF Link opens new window..

I know there is opposition to some of the proposals, but I ask that you give them your full and careful consideration.

Most proposals are based on programs in other states, and many of them were tested by the 50 Ohio trial courts that participated in the Jury Service Pilot Project.

CLE —The CLE Commission is considering an OSBA proposal to increase the number of hours of credit that may be obtained through online course work. The Court will consider the proposal within one month after receiving the recommendation from the commission.

Unauthorized Practice of Law—

Tuesday the court voted to publish for comment proposed amendments to Gov. Bar Rule VII regarding the unauthorized practice of law. There have been complaints from bars that the current system is too slow. The new proposal is to add five members to the Board of Commissioners for the Unauthorized Practice of Law, raising the total to twelve members. This would allow the Commission to hear cases in panels of three, much like the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.

Professionalism

Also on Tuesday the Court responded to a meeting of court, metro bar, OSBA and law school representatives that concluded that the Supreme Court should continue to have an active leadership role in professionalism, but that there should be a greater role, shared responsibility with the local bars and law schools.

The court will restructure the Supreme Court Professionalism Commission by adding one new lawyer member and raising the committee membership to a total of 15, with six attorneys appointed by the metro bar and state bar. There will be five judges on the committee, two law school representatives and two non-attorneys. The court also agreed to allocate more staff resources.

Senate Bill 214

The Ohio Senate has taken the first step in reducing the anonymity that seems to encourage, if not promote, harmful advertisements in the campaigns for the Supreme Court sponsored by independent, unauthorized committees.

The Senate has approved Senate Bill 214, which would require the public disclosure of contributions of more than $250 to these independent groups, and would prohibit corporations and unions from contributing.

This bill would not infringe on the first amendment rights to free speech, but it would allow voters to know who is delivering the message. The legislation would not limit the message, but it would expand the information available to the public.

Full disclosure was a recommendation of the participants on the forum on judicial independence held March 6, 2003 .

I have discussed the bill with Speaker Householder, and a House committee is holding hearings on the bill, and if approved by the full chamber, and signed by the governor, Ohio could become the first state requiring full disclosure.

The next time you come to the Supreme Court I hope you take the time to read an inscription near one of the entrances…titled the “Declarations of Freedom,” a collection of our inalienable rights enshrined in documents important to the creation of Ohio .

Perhaps it will cause you to reflect how radical it was to guarantee religious freedom; how bold it was to outlaw slavery.

Today we take for granted the right to trial by jury, and the principle of impartial justice.

I would like to draw your attention to Article One, Section 11, of the Ohio Constitution of 1851.

It reads as follows:

“Every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of the right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech, or of the press.”

It is here in the pages of constitutions and bills of rights that citizens find safe harbor, they find the protection and liberty of a democratic society.

These expressions of freedom give us the right to speak out when we see an injustice.

They allow us to say “no” when popular opinion pushes us to say “yes.”

They provide the protection to be unpopular.

When a rock group records a song that rejects war and capitalism,

When a judge rules that rap music is protected by the First Amendment, the benefits extend to all society.

So yes, there is a reason to hold this meeting in the shadow of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Each and every inductee owes a great debt to the guarantees of freedom enshrined in the rule of law.