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MAUREEN O'CONNOR

OHIO CHIEF JUSTICE

BIOGRAPHY

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, the first woman to lead the Ohio judicial branch, has made justice system reform the centerpiece of her nine-year tenure. Among initiatives she has championed in Ohio and nationally are racial justice; challenges to “debtor’s prisons;” attorney representation for the poor; reform of bail, fines and fees; sentencing fairness; cameras in courtrooms; and grand jury reform. Chief Justice O’Connor led the creation in 2016 of the nation’s first multistate body designed to fight the opioid epidemic by creating an across-borders team of judicial, legislative and law enforcement sectors with medical, scientific, research and philanthropic groups. The work of nine states acting as a unit continues today and has spawned a national body and regional efforts. She has served as co-chair of the National Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices and is past president of the national Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and past chair of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Board of Directors. Maureen O’Connor was Ohio’s lieutenant governor when she was elected to the Supreme Court of Ohio as a justice in November 2002. She was re-elected in 2008. Voters chose her as Ohio’s 10th chief justice in 2010 and she was unopposed for a second six-year term in 2016. In her first statewide judicial election in 2002, she took more than 57 percent of the vote to become the 148th justice of the court and the sixth woman to join the court. Her election gave the court its first female majority. Born in the nation's capital and raised in Strongsville and Parma in Ohio, Chief Justice 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, and prosecutor. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Seton Hill College in 1973 and her law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1980. While gaining experience in practice as an attorney during the early 1980s, Chief Justice 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 until becoming a common pleas court judge in 1993. As a busy trial judge, she 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. She resigned from the bench to become the Summit County prosecuting attorney in 1995. There, she aggressively prosecuted repeat offenders, violent criminals, and public officials who committed ethical violations or improprieties, and lobbied the General Assembly for tougher laws on rape and gang-related offenses. Her untiring work received accolades from victims’ rights groups and educational institutions, and earned awards from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Cleveland State University. In 1998, she was elected lieutenant governor — the second-highest executive office in the state. She became Governor Bob Taft’s chief adviser on criminal justice issues, served 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 Sept. 11 attacks, she led the state in its response to new threats of terrorism by working with the Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement, and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, efforts that garnered the praise of federal homeland security officials.

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