In researching for this event, we discovered an earlier amazing judicial woman who accomplished numerous “firsts” for Ohio women: Florence E. Allen (Learn more about her here). Her inspiring journey as a Suffragist, Ohio’s first woman judge, and the first woman in the U.S. elected to a state supreme court, helped set a tone for the outstanding women judicial candidates that we would hear from during the evening.
Our first speaker, Judge Zayas, told about what inspired her to run for the Ohio Supreme Court. This involved two recent cases in which settled law was overturned after the swearing in of new, more conservative justices. These cases, which had been decided at the end of the previous session, were quickly brought before the court to be heard once again. The Chief Justice objected but was out voted. This was unprecedented, not to mention that the cases were overturned along party lines within weeks of their previous decision. Judge Zayas believes that political parties should not bend the judicial arm of the law. She is the first woman of Latino heritage elected to an appellate court of Ohio and this fall could become the first Latino American elected to the Ohio Supreme Court. She believes that courts with diverse representation more fairly serve the people that they were created to protect.
Judge Jamison, like our first woman Supreme Court Justice of Ohio, Florence Allen, had a connection with the coal mines – though Judge Jamison actually worked in the West Virginia mines! She ultimately moved to Ohio, attending college and putting herself through law school. Expressing gratitude for the mentorship she received from Justice Brunner, she told of her own commitment to “bringing others [particularly women and minorities] along.” In answering a question about the relatively small number of Black judges in Ohio (only 56, spread out across just nine of our 88 counties), Judge Jamison told of her role as co-founder of the Ohio Black Judges Association. (She herself is one of only six Black appeals court judges in Ohio.) She spoke of the importance of representation on the bench of minorities, but also of the need of representation for non-English speakers or those with disabilities.
Justice Brunner grew up in Clark County and continues to feel her Clark County connection. She spoke of the challenge of raising children while pursuing her career; yet she has served at all levels of the Ohio courts. She was elected Ohio’s first woman Secretary of State and while in that office became the first Ohioan to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award. Her experience, as Secretary of State, with boards of elections and the need for election integrity, makes her uniquely qualified for Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice. In fact, this elections experience was what initially tipped the scales and prompted her to run for the Ohio Supreme Court, as she knew the issues of redistricting would be decided at this level.
All three of these fine candidates believe strongly that the courts should be free from political agendas and in their makeup reflect the communities in which they serve. Ohio could not be more fortunate than to have such qualified candidates running for our state supreme court.