Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart to deliver Akron Law commencement address


Hon. Melody Stewart

Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Melody J. Stewart

Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Melody J. Stewart will be the distinguished speaker at The University of Akron (UA) School of Law spring 2024 Commencement on Sunday, May 12, at 2 p.m. in the James A. Rhodes Arena on the UA campus.

Stewart was elected in November 2018 to a full term as the 161st Justice to serve on the Supreme Court of Ohio. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Justice Stewart served on the Eighth District Court of Appeals. She was elected to an unexpired term in 2006 and twice reelected to full terms. She served as the court’s administrative judge in 2013. Born and raised in Cleveland, she is not only the first African American woman and the first black Democrat elected to the state’s highest court, but she also became the first African American Democrat elected to any statewide office.

Stewart has more than 30 years of combined administrative, legal and academic experience. She was an administrator for a health care management company, a music teacher, a civil defense litigator, and a law school administrator and professor before being elected to the Court of Appeals. While on the Eighth District Court of Appeals, she was assigned to hear cases in other appellate districts and in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Justice Stewart earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati; her law degree as a Patricia Roberts Harris Fellow from the College of Law at Cleveland State University; and her Ph.D. as a Mandel Leadership Fellow at Case Western Reserve University’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. She was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Cleveland State University.

After practicing law as an assistant law director for the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland, Stewart worked as a lecturer, an adjunct instructor and an assistant dean at Cleveland State’s law school before joining the full-time faculty. Additionally, she taught at the University of Toledo College of Law and at Ursuline College, and she was director of student services at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law.

Justice Stewart has served on many boards and committees, including the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee and the Ohio Supreme Court’s Judicial College board. She was chair of the Ohio Capital Case Attorney Fee Council and served as a commissioner and chair of the Board of Planning and Zoning for the city of Euclid. She has been a member of various professional, educational, civic and community organizations.

She is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts in Ohio, the District of Columbia, and the United States Supreme Court.

"We are honored to have Justice Stewart speak to our graduates and their families at the 2024 commencement as our students embark upon the bar exam and their legal career,” said Emily Janoski-Haehlen, dean of the law school. “She brought a diverse background to the bench that I expect a lot of our students can relate to. After graduating from college, she managed a health care staffing office where the company’s vice president was studying law. Intrigued by the textbooks, she decided to apply to law school. After earning her law degree, she worked as an assistant city law director before pursuing a career in education. A desire to play a more active role in legal proceedings led her to run for a seat on the state bench.”