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April 3, 2010
Chief Justice Moyer Remembered

Chief Justice Thomas J. MoyerThe Supreme Court of Ohio on Saturday took measures to ensure the uninterrupted administration of justice in Ohio in the wake of the unexpected death of Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer on Friday, while those who knew and loved the Chief began to reflect on his life and career.

The Justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio, colleagues and friends remembered Chief Justice Moyer on Saturday as an honorable man whose remarkable career combined an unmatched work ethic with a commitment to civility, a deep respect for the rule of law and dedication to public service. The result was a 24-year tenure at the helm of the Ohio judiciary that brought unprecedented progress and improvement. 

“This is a devastating loss for his family, for the court, and for the people of Ohio.  And it’s a personal loss for me and all of our colleagues,” said Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, who knew the Chief Justice for more than 40 years from their days at the OSU Law School. “Tom had all the qualities you would want in a Chief Justice.  He was fair and deliberative.  He encouraged collaboration, and deeply valued collegiality.  Over time, he assembled a great staff, and he was respected and admired by everyone who worked in this building.  They genuinely liked the man, and I know they will miss him on a personal level.  But the court family will continue to represent him for years to come, and that’s one of his great legacies.”

Under Article 4, Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution, as the most senior Justice of the Court, Justice Pfeifer will serve as the acting Chief Justice. The Governor may elect to make an appointment under the provisions of Article 4, Section 13.

Justice Pfeifer conferred with fellow Justices and Court administrators Saturday to determine a course for hearing and deciding cases and attending to the administrative duties of the office.

“Chief Justice Moyer was on the bench right up to the end, hearing oral arguments on Wednesday before entering the hospital on Thursday,” Justice Pfeifer said. “More than anything, he would want us to see to the continuity of operations at this institution he dedicated his life to serving for the people of Ohio.”

Discussions with the family regarding funeral arrangements continued Saturday, and details will be released soon.

Meanwhile, leaders from across Ohio and the nation continued on Saturday to offer reflections on the life and career of an extraordinary man whose impact on the judicial system in Ohio and beyond will be felt for decades.

“When he became Chief Justice, he not only brought great integrity to the bench, but he ushered in an era of forward-thinking reforms,” said Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. “He was one of the country’s first champions of drug courts. He was a champion of technology in the judicial system with the development of the Ohio Courts Network. He was a tireless champion of arbitration and mediation. He was nationally respected as an innovative leader who always sought to not just administer justice but to improve the administration of justice.”

Justice Maureen O’Connor reflected on the Chief’s legendary temperament. “You can’t say this about many people, but he was truly a gentleman. It took a keg of dynamite to rile him up. He was very slow to anger. And because of that, he was a leader.”

Governor Ted Strickland recalled that Chief Justice Moyer swore him in as governor in 2007, which he said was “the beginning of a warm and close working relationship – the kind of mutually respectful relationship you always envision leaders of different branches of government having.  But that was Tom: dignified, respectful, thoughtful and always concerned for the well-being of others.  It was never about him.  Tom unselfishly served the people of Ohio for so many years.  I know he was very much looking forward to his retirement, but he loved what he did.   In recent years, he was a leader and a partner in Ohio’s bipartisan efforts to fight foreclosure and to take a serious and comprehensive look at corrections reform.  He spoke passionately and convincingly for reducing the influence of money in judicial elections.”

Read statements from the other current Justices, former Justices and other leaders.

Chief Justice Moyer was the longest-serving current Chief Justice in the United States. He was first elected in 1986 and took office in 1987.  He was re-elected three times, in 1992, 1998 and 2004.

Under his guidance, Ohio became a leader in providing substance-abuse treatment to nonviolent offenders and the development of family courts, a comprehensive approach to resolving criminal and civil issues confronting families.

As chairman of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission, Chief Justice Moyer led efforts to revise Ohio felony, misdemeanor, traffic and juvenile sentencing laws adopted by the General Assembly.

Chief Justice Moyer also worked with lawyers and judges in other countries in the development of independent judiciaries. After Ukraine gained its independence, he led efforts to introduce that country to the importance of the rule of law and continues to host delegations from Ukraine on a regular basis. Chief Justice Moyer also worked with judicial leaders in China, Argentina and Chile.

The Chief Justice received his law degree from The Ohio State University in 1964, and served eight years as a judge of the 10th District Court of Appeals in Franklin County, four years as executive assistant to the governor of Ohio and eight years in the private practice of law in Columbus.

Chief Justice Moyer served as vice-chair of the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center (ASTAR), a national consortium to prepare judges for managing the resolution of disputes that present complex science issues. He also chaired the Task Force on Politics and Judicial Selection for the Conference of Chief Justices and co-chaired its Committee on Emergency Preparedness in the Courts.

He served on the Board of Justice at Stake, a national organization that supports fair and impartial courts. In 2009, he also was appointed to the Advisory Committee of the Sandra Day O’Connor Judicial Selection Initiative.

In 1987, at the 300th Ohio State University commencement, he was recognized as one of 40 outstanding alumni. In August 2009, Chief Justice Moyer delivered the commencement address to about 1,900 graduates at Ohio State's summer quarter commencement.

In June 1989, the Chief Justice received the American Judicature Society Herbert Harley Award for improving the administration of justice in Ohio. In August 1995, he was named president of the Conference of Chief Justices for a one-year term. In January 2003, he was awarded the James F. Henry Award for exemplary alternative dispute resolution leadership in the state judiciary from the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution. In addition, the National Client Protection Organization recognized Chief Justice Moyer with its 2008 Isaac Hecht Law Client Protection Award, given for demonstrated excellence in the field of law-client protection.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger had this to say:  “The Chief could laugh and joke and make every person feel special no matter what position the person held.  He was interested in the well-being of all, and we were privileged to serve at the Supreme Court with him. In my 25 years as a judge, he was my Chief, and I will miss him.”

Contact: Chris Davey at 614.387.9250.