High court comes to Toledo

Students hear attorneys’ cases before justices

4/10/2014
BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left: Justice Judith L. French, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, Justice Terrence O'Donnell, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, and Justice William M. O'Neill listen as Douglas Cole, an attorney for Cedar Fair LP, argues during a session of the Supreme Court of Ohio in the McQuade Law Auditorium at The University of Toledo College of Law Wednesday, April 9, 2014.  The event is part of the courtÕs Off-Site Court Program.
From left: Justice Judith L. French, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, Justice Terrence O'Donnell, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, and Justice William M. O'Neill listen as Douglas Cole, an attorney for Cedar Fair LP, argues during a session of the Supreme Court of Ohio in the McQuade Law Auditorium at The University of Toledo College of Law Wednesday, April 9, 2014. The event is part of the courtÕs Off-Site Court Program.

More than 350 Lucas County area high school students listened closely as the Supreme Court of Ohio considered oral arguments in three cases during a court session held at the University of Toledo College of Law on Wednesday.

The verdict: “It was pretty interesting,” said Tamara Lawson, one of 40 seniors from Waite High School who attended the court proceedings. “It’s something we’ve been studying in school.”

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The visit was part of the Off-Site Court Program, which helps expose and educate more youths to how the judicial system works, said Joelynn Laux, president of the University’s Student Bar Association and an event organizer. Dozens of university law students attended and helped run the event.

“It’s such an honor to have the Supreme Court come here and that includes distinguished alum Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger,” said Ms. Laux, who will graduate in May with a law degree and masters in business. “It’s important to have the high school students here to see the process and how it works.

“It’s also important to educate the community about what their rights are,” she said

Toledo Bar Association volunteers, assisted by several law students before the sessions, explained Ohio’s judicial system and reviewed case materials with the high school students. Students also met with case attorneys to discuss legal issues.

Theo Coman, a junior at Ottawa Hills High School, asks members of the Supreme Court of Ohio what their thoughts are of Judge Judy before a court session in the McQuade Law Auditorium at The University of Toledo College of Law Wednesday, April 9, 2014.  The event is part of the courtÕs Off-Site Court Program.
Theo Coman, a junior at Ottawa Hills High School, asks members of the Supreme Court of Ohio what their thoughts are of Judge Judy before a court session in the McQuade Law Auditorium at The University of Toledo College of Law Wednesday, April 9, 2014. The event is part of the courtÕs Off-Site Court Program.

During a luncheon with the students, Supreme Court members introduced themselves. Justice Lanzinger, a Toledo resident, was class valedictorian when she graduated from UT’s law school in 1977.

“I never dreamed 37 years later that I’d be a judge on the Supreme Court,” she told the students.

Justice Lanzinger isn’t the only one in the family involved in law. Her son, Joshua, is a Toledo Municipal Court judge, and her daughter and son-in-law, Mara and Doug Spidel, are both lawyers.

“My husband Robert is a retired home inspector,” Justice Lanzinger explained. “He said he didn’t become an attorney because we needed one human in the family.”

Justice Lanzinger said her hope is that students at the session walked away with a better understanding and respect for the judicial system.

The Supreme Court listened to three cases Wednesday, including the termination and reinstatement of a former Cedar Point LP executive; whether a “dual intent” argument is an appropriate legal analysis to claim workers’ compensation, and whether in-court identification of an alleged perpetrator is required.

The justices listened to arguments and will make rulings later, they said.

The Off-Site Court Program was founded in 1987 by the late Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer and is designed to teach Ohioans about the state’s judicial system. Twice each year, once in the spring and once in the fall, the Supreme Court relocates from Columbus to hold sessions in another city, selecting a different county each time. The Supreme Court last sat in Lucas County in 1987, the first year of the program.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.