Ohio Chief Justice to speak at School of Law graduation ceremony


Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor will be the keynote speaker at the 2013 Commencement of The University of Akron School of Law on Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.

Maureen O'Connor

This year's ceremony marks the law school's 89th commencement.

"Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is an example of the lawyer as public servant. Her deep and wide experience in high-level executive and judicial roles have enabled her to advocate effectively for improving the administration of our justice system and access to justice," says Interim Dean Elizabeth Reilly. "We are honored that she will speak at our commencement as our graduates make the transition from student to professional."

O'Connor is the 10th chief justice in Ohio history and is the first woman to lead the Ohio judicial branch.

She first joined the Supreme Court of Ohio as an associate justice in January 2003. She was re-elected in November 2008 and elected chief justice in 2010. Her first statewide judicial election in 2002 made her the 148th Justice to the court, the sixth woman to join the court.

Longstanding dedication to public good

Born in Washington, D.C., but raised in Strongsville and Parma, 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.

She earned a bachelor of arts at Seton Hill College in 1973 before earning a law degree at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1980.

While gaining experience as a practicing attorney during the early 1980s, 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 busy trial judge, 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.

Honored for efforts

She resigned from the bench to become the Summit County prosecuting attorney in 1995. There, O'Connor aggressively prosecuted repeat offenders, violent criminals, and public officials who committed ethical violations or improprieties, and lobbied for tougher laws on rape and gang-related offenses. Her untiring efforts received accolades from victims' rights groups and educational institutions, and earned awards from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Cleveland State University. As prosecutor, O'Connor also lobbied the Ohio General Assembly on important criminal justice reforms.

In 1998, she was elected lieutenant governor — the second-highest official in the state. 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.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, 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.

Since being sworn in as Chief Justice in January 2011, O’Connor has pursued an extensive agenda for strengthening the third branch of Ohio government in a number of key areas including budget, diversity, the death penalty, impartial courts, community involvement, internal efficiencies, CLE, and commercial dockets.

Visit the Supreme Court of Ohio website to learn more about O’Connor.

About The University of Akron School of Law

The University of Akron School of Law promotes justice, the protection of individual liberty and the rule of law through commitment to excellence in teaching, scholarship and service. The law school features renowned programs in intellectual property, professional responsibility and trial advocacy, and is home to one of four Constitutional Law Centers in the United States, established by the U.S. Congress in 1986.To learn more, visit the School of Law online.

Media contact: Laura Massie, 330-972-6476 or massie1@uakron.edu.