Speeches

Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer
Ohio Courts Futures Commission
May 1, 2000

Good morning and thank you all for being here. Today we observe the first Law Day of a new century. The theme of Law Day 2000 is "Democracy and Diversity."

Law Day in a democratic country that lives under the rule of law is always an important day. But Law Day 2000 is a particularly significant day for us in Ohio. For the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, we have taken a giant step into the future.

We recognize today that an independent, fair, efficient justice system, accessible to all is the foundation upon which our democratic institutions rest. The final report of the Ohio Courts Futures Commission ensures that the judiciary will not stand in place…that it will plan, and take the steps necessary to maintain citizen trust and confidence in the courts.

The Futures Commission was not designed to fix a broken system. Its mission was to peer into the future, think boldly, and to identify those elements that will assure our citizens that their courts will continue to be efficient, competent and affordable.

All 52 members of the Futures Commission have performed an important service for the courts and citizens of Ohio. I commend co-chairs Susan Lajoie Eagan and Robert Duncan for their thoughtful and patient stewardship of the Commission.

I will not take the time to identify each member of the Commission, but each one of you should know that your energy, your deliberations and your advice will have a lasting impact on the citizens of Ohio.

Lawyers and judges are trained to look at the past. We search for constant principles. We consult decisions and interpret legislation that may be 100 to 200 years old.

But non-lawyers constituted a majority of the Futures Commission.

That was designed to attract insights and perspectives not commonly heard in courthouses. I commend you for your service.

The courts of tomorrow must be prepared to serve a society unlike any in history.

We must meet the expectations of young citizens who have been raised on CD-ROMs and ultra-fast modems.

And the parents and grandparents of those children will also bring change. Over the next 20 years the number of citizens over the age of 65 will triple.

This will place a different face on jury duty, probate court dockets, and access to the courts.

If the judiciary fails to meet the expectations of tomorrow’s court user… the system will fail, and the rule of law will lose the meaning it holds today.

Every citizen in our state is on a journey to the future, and the Futures Commission has helped us chart the course to be traveled by the justice system.

All of the recommendations are worthy of consideration. The limits of most proposals are time, energy and money.

The technology recommendations are among those that will receive immediate attention.

I am accepting the Futures Commission recommendation to establish a permanent Court Technology Standards Committee.

This will ensure that computers in all courts are compatible, and operate in the most cost-effective manner.

Common standards also will allow the courts to provide access to their public records to virtually anyone 24 hours a day from remote sites.

I support the recommendations concerning mediation.

The proposal that would allow citizens to file for mediation before filing a lawsuit sets a new goal for mediation. Such a proposal could help change the perception that the courts are a place of conflict.

Mediation makes the courts a venue of agreement.

Some of the recommendations already are works in progress. Judges, for example, are allowing jurors to ask questions and take notes during trial.

Mediation is becoming a standard method of dispute resolution. We have doubled the amount of time new judges commit to orientation.

Some recommendations put new polish on existing authority.

With the approval of the Modern Courts Amendment in 1968, voters gave courts in different counties the power to merge operations. With the emergence of drug courts and family courts… the Futures Commission saw it was time to revisit this option.

Some proposals will generate considerable debate, such as increasing the qualifications for those seeking judicial office.

These recommendations seek to maintain, indeed enhance citizens’ confidence that the process for selecting judges is designed to attract and retain the most qualified persons.

The goals and objectives detailed in the Commission’s report cannot all be accomplished in the next few years. The recommendations are long-term in both scope and implementation.

As the first step in the implementation of the recommendations…

I will ask organizations such as the Ohio Judicial Conference and other judicial, court and interested organizations to help prioritize the recommendations. The assistance of judges, clerks of courts, court administrators and citizens will ensure the best use of public and private resources.

To assure accountability, I will invite members of the Futures Commission to reconvene one year from today to review a status report developed by the staff of the Supreme Court.

This annual report will provide a systematic accounting to the Commission and the public of the steps we have taken towards implementing the recommendations. I am committed to ensuring that the recommendations serve as a touchstone for future planning. They will not be relegated to some dusty bookshelf.

As I said at the open of this news conference…this is an historic day for the courts of Ohio. Twenty-five years from now…citizens of Ohio will view the issuing of this report as a crucial turning point… where the courts plotted a course for their journey over a changing landscape.

The journey has no end because the destination is the continuous improvement of the administration of the rule of law in a world that will always change.

Future members of the judiciary will also see this as an important step in maintaining the trust and confidence of all citizens in their courts. And it is my hope, and the hope of all members of the Futures Commission, that the citizens of Ohio will agree.

Thank you for your interest. We will be pleased to answer your questions.