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Published: Monday, 5/17/2004

Moyer challenges law grads at ONU

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ADA - There's a reason Shakespeare wrote that all the lawyers would have to be killed before anarchy could occur, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer told Ohio Northern University law graduates yesterday.

Likewise, there's a reason why To Kill a Mockingbird, a story centering on a lawyer's unpopular defense of a black man accused of raping a white woman in the South, ranked second on a national survey of most influential books, he said.

Despite the proliferation of lawyer jokes, the public trusts and respects lawyers, he said, urging Ohio Northern's class of 2004 to uphold that.

"Use your legal education in a way that will instill continued confidence in the legal system," Chief Justice Moyer advised.

He urged them to be willing to make tough decisions and develop creative ways to resolve disputes, in the courtroom and the community. "One of America's problems is too many of us are averse to undertaking anything that involves risk," he said.

In an interview with The Blade before the ceremony in north-

ern Hardin County, he said the increasing number of juveniles referred to the courts is one of the biggest challenges for the Ohio legal system.

"It's a very different-looking court docket than 25 years ago," he said.

For crimes such as theft from a store, he said it can be effective for judges to bring the juvenile offender and shop owner together to help youngsters understand their actions have harmed a real person. In some cases, youngsters have worked for a shop to cover the cost of their crime.

To prevent juvenile delinquency in the first place, he urged parents to spend time with their children, enforce appropriate conduct, and set a good example. "It sounds like awful basic advice," he said. "But some of the best advice is ancient, basic advice."

Ohio Northern gave Chief Justice Moyer an honorary degree yesterday. He received his law degree from Ohio State University; his father graduated from Ohio Northern in the 1920s before practicing law in Sandusky.

Heather Stutz of Ada ranked at the top of her class of about 74. She had a message for families and friends of the graduates: "Hopefully the need for financial support will subside. But we're not making any promises!"

The average Ohio Northern student finishes law school with $65,000 in graduate and undergraduate debt, David Crago, dean of the law school, said before the ceremony. The average starting salary for the university's law graduates is $50,000 to $55,000, he added.

Graduate Bill Zimmerman said he knew of classmates whose school debts ranged from $5,000 to $120,000.

"I'm right in the middle," he said. "It's not too bad with a job."

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-724-6102.



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