Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Association of Municipal/County Judges of Ohio
February 3, 2014

Thank you Judge Rohrs (Defiance Municipal Court judge and outgoing AMCJO president) for that introduction and for your leadership of the association over the past year. I’m pleased to be here.

Thanks as well for your willingness to travel to New Orleans next week at our request to attend an Enhancing Judicial Skills in Domestic Violence Cases Workshop to build upon and to share your expertise on domestic violence law with judges around the country.

In an effort to stay on schedule, I’ll keep my remarks brief, to the point, and focused on a proposal to comprehensively address crime and crime related legislation that I recently presented before the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission.

The Criminal Sentencing Commission was created by an act of the Ohio General Assembly in 1990 and began its operation in 1991. It has served a very useful purpose and continues to do so.

However, I believe it is time to take a look at the focus of the commission and consider expanding it into a larger, more comprehensive entity that can work to help all of the state’s justice system partners to combat criminal justice issues in our state in an inter-related, multi-dimensional way.

As a former prosecutor and Director of the Department of Public Safety, I am keenly aware that in order to address criminal justice issues we, both as a society and government, need to look at the issue holistically.

To that end, I have proposed to Senate President Faber that we remake the Criminal Sentencing Commission into the Criminal Justice Commission with an expanded role to take a look at how to best address the many issues and how those issues interact with one another.

For many years, we have seen different organizations take on a sliver of the larger criminal justice pie, only to lament that their focus was too limited or did not include a review of other related and essential issues.

In my proposal, I suggest that this body not limit itself to sentencing issues but address other issues as well. Some of these include:

I also propose that these topics, among others, be reviewed by a robust committee structure where subject matter experts take on the task of providing meaningful review of the issues with the assistance of a committed staff assigned to the project.

I also propose that many if not all of the organizations represented on the current commission continue to serve in this newer, and more fully engaged commission.

In addition, I foresee a support staff that harkens back to the days of ten or fifteen years ago where there was a team of commission staffers that were well versed in the many issues surrounding criminal justice.

I also support the addition of some moneys to the proposed commission’s budget to employ such a team going forward.

Further, I propose that the commission continue to be operated under the umbrella of the organizational structure of the Supreme Court.

I have met with Senator Faber on two occasions to discuss my ideas and have reviewed what the next steps might be to put this plan into action.

Senator Faber has indicated that he has some ideas of how he would like to proceed with re-codification of our criminal sentencing code. I believe that we have made progress on future goals and look forward to combined efforts in this area.

At the commission meeting on January 16, I asked commission members to read the memorandum, give it their earnest consideration, and provide me with meaningful feedback as to how we can make this happen.

I would also encourage you to give some thought about the new structure and its potential.

Thank you for your time and attention today and, most of all, thank you for your service in furthering the cause of justice in Ohio. Without your dedication to rule of law and to faithfully and impartially discharging your duties, justice cannot be done in Ohio.