Monday, September 30, 2013

A Dead Language Helps Keep Law Alive

When I was in high school, I studied Latin for four years, never realizing that it would be a help to me when I later studied law. If you follow the Ohio Supreme Court on our website, you may occasionally encounter phrases that come from this “dead language.” Here are just a few examples:
  • amicus curiae = “friend of the court,” a person or entity who is not party to a court case ut who petitions the court or is requested by the court to file a brief because of a special interest in the subject of the case.
  • et al. = “and others,” an abbreviation usually used after the first  name, “Smith et al. v. Jones, et al.” used when there are many parties on one side of the case or another. 
  • ex post facto = “after the fact,” referring  to a law that makes punishable an act that was not illegal at the time it was committed.
  • habeas corpus = “you have the body,” a petition by a prisoner challenging an illegal commitment and seeking a writ that will order release from custody. 
  • nolle prosequi = “unwilling to proceed,” a decision by a prosecutor to dismiss a criminal case.
  • per curiam = ”through the court,” an opinion of the court not signed by a particular justice as an author.
  • pro se= “for oneself,” meaning a person is acting on his or her own behalf without a lawyer.
  • res judicata = “a matter judged,” an issue that already has been settled by judicial decision.
  • stare decisis = “to stand by that which is decided,” principle that precedent is to be followed in later cases.
Even though some would abolish all Latin in court documents, calling for “plain English,” certain phrases are well-established in the American legal system and will continue to be used within the profession by lawyers and judges as a kind of “shorthand” to describe legal concepts and principles. Latin still lives.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 17 is a Special Day for Our Country

On this day in 1787, the U.S. Constitution was adopted by 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

U.S. Constitution (National Archives Website)
The U.S. Courts’ website has resources for teachers and the general public to learn more about the Constitution. The site includes a quiz to test your knowledge about this vital document that established the foundation of our government. For example, when was the last time the Constitution was amended? I won’t give away the answer. See for yourself and then let me know how you did.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Once Again, An Open Invitation

I have the distinct pleasure of working in one of Ohio’s most stunningly beautiful buildings. With its architectural and artistic details, the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, nestled along the banks of the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, is truly a gem.

Every year, we have thousands of visitors who tour the building and discover interesting facts about its 80-year history. Part of the tour includes a stop in the Visitor Education Center, where interactive exhibits explain the role of our courts and illustrate important cases and issues. One of my favorite stops is the mock trial courtroom where visitors can place themselves in the roles of judge, jury, plaintiff, and defendant.

We welcome those that we serve, this is your Supreme Court, after all. You can schedule your visit Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by calling 614.387.9223 or e-mailing

Hundreds of students expected to visit the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial CenterWatch this new video to get an idea of what you’ll see during the tour and how one school in Cincinnati is always the first to visit each school year.