Rhodes State College News

May 05, 2018
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to Address Rhodes State College Graduates 2018

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, will give the commencement address to the Rhodes State College Class of 2018. The College will confer degrees at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 5, during the College’s 48th annual commencement at Lima’s Veterans Memorial Civic & Convention Center.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is the 10th chief justice and the first woman in Ohio history to lead the Ohio judicial branch. Born in the nation’s capital and raised in Strongsville and Parma, Chief Justice O’Connor’s career in public service and the law spans three decades and includes service as a private lawyer, magistrate, common pleas court judge, prosecutor, and Supreme Court justice.

While gaining experience as an attorney during the early 1980s, Chief Justice O’Connor created a home for her family and her legal career in Northeast Ohio. Appointed a magistrate in Summit County in 1985, she served in that capacity until becoming a common pleas court judge in 1993. As a trial judge, Chief Justice O’Connor was selected by her peers to serve as the administrative judge — a testament to her ability to build coalitions and maintain collegiality while administering to the business of the courts.

She became a Summit County prosecuting attorney in 1995, where she aggressively prosecuted repeat offenders, violent criminals, and public officials who committed ethical violations or improprieties, and lobbied the General Assembly for tougher laws on rape and gang-related offences. Her untiring work received accolades from victims’ rights groups and educational institutions, and earned awards from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Cleveland State University.

Since she took office in 2011, Chief Justice O’Connor has led significant reforms and improvements in the Ohio judicial system. This included improving access to justice by addressing the impact that court fines, fees, and bail practices have on economically disadvantaged communities, an issue she focuses on as co-chair of the National Task Force on Fees, Fines and Bail Practices. She also is president of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and chair of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Board of Directors.

In the wake of the September 2011 attacks, she led the state in its response to new threats of terrorism by working with law enforcement, Ohio EMA, and the Department of Homeland Security, efforts that garnered the praise of federal homeland security officials.

In 2016, she started an effort to address the opiate/heroin epidemic by gathering legal experts and state court officials from nine surrounding states to determine ways to address the issue on a regional basis. She also established a task force to maintain public trust and confidence in grand juries, created a committee to examine the administration of the death penalty, and proposed improvements to strengthen judicial elections in Ohio.

From 1999 to 2003, Chief Justice O’Connor served as Lieutenant Governor for the State of Ohio. She became the governor's chief adviser on criminal justice issues, serving as director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, and as chair of Ohio's Security Task Force and the State Building Security Review Committee. She joined the Supreme Court of Ohio as a justice in January 2003 and was re-elected in November 2008. She was elected chief justice in 2010 and was re-elected to a second six-year term in 2016.

Chief Justice O’Connor earned her bachelor of arts degree at Seton Hill College in 1973 before going on to earn her law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1980.

In addition to Chief Justice O’Connor’s address and conferring of degrees, the 2018 Outstanding Alumni will be recognized during the ceremony.

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