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Published: Tuesday, 4/6/2010

Strickland proposes Moyer honor

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Gov. Ted Strickland Monday suggested renaming the home of the Ohio Supreme Court in honor of Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who died Friday.

"It was a building that he loved, that he worked so hard to have restored, and I think that it would be hugely appropriate and fitting for him to be given that honor,'' Mr. Strickland said as flags at the Statehouse flew at half-staff in honor of the late chief justice.

That decision, however, is not the governor's or lawmakers' to make. The white 15-story former Ohio Departments Building overlooking the Scioto River about a block from the Statehouse is owned by the court. The last thing done upon completion of a taxpayer-funded $85 million renovation and restoration of the building in 2004 was a transfer of the deed, a nod to the court's independence.

That deed is framed in one of the chief justice's conference rooms, another indication of the building's importance to Chief Justice Moyer. Any decision dealing with the name of the building would be made by his fellow justices.

"He was very proud of the fact that the Ohio Supreme Court finally had a free-standing home of its own, separate from the equal branches of government. He shepherded it through to completion with outstanding results," said Justice Robert Cupp of Lima, who in 2007 became the most recent addition to the bench.

The chief justice, a Sandusky native, died Friday about two weeks shy of his 71st birthday. He'd been in poor health, dealing with an irregular heartbeat and most recently from an intestinal blockage, but his fellow justices have indicated they didn't believe his problems were life-threatening.

He presided over cases as usual in the days before he entered Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus on Thursday.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

Yesterday, Acting Chief Justice Paul Pfeifer, now the court's most senior justice, met with his fellow justices and court staff in the courtroom. Chief Justice Moyer's judicial robe was draped over his chair at the center of the bench, next to his photo.

"The main message was for court staff to know their first mission is to continue the work of administering justice in Ohio," court spokesman Chris Davey said.

A letter from the chief justice's widow, Mary, was read to the staff.

Justice Cupp said, "He was such a gentle shepherd as he sort of worked with other justices in terms of making suggestions, nudging, leading by example. He was a great leader, obviously a wonderful person, and this is a great loss."

Mr. Strickland, a Democrat, of-

fered no insight into whom he might consider appointing to the position. Some speculation has centered on Franklin County Probate Judge Eric Brown, the Democrat the governor recruited with much praise to run this fall for the seat Chief Justice Moyer was about to vacate because he had reached the mandatory retirement age.

The governor could name someone else to complete the nine months left in Chief Justice Moyer's term and then let voters decide on Nov. 2 whether Judge Brown or Republican Justice Maureen O'Connor should be the next chief justice.

"I have chosen to defer thinking about that until I and Ohioans have taken the time to reflect upon Judge Moyer's life and to pay proper respects at this time," he said. "There will be opportunities to discuss that. … But I think it would be a little unseemly at this particular time to be talking about his replacement when we've lost him so recently."

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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