Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holding Court in Mansfield

Yesterday the Ohio Supreme Court traveled to Mansfield as part of our Off-Site Court Program. Twice a year we travel across the state and hear cases in a county courthouse or at a school.

More than 500 students from 11 schools in Richland County heard one of three oral arguments at Mansfield Senior High School. You can watch a video of the students’ experience here.

But before you click the video and see the process that allows the justices to hold an official court session outside of Columbus, you may be interested in a bit of history.

In the court’s very early days, there were only 3 Supreme Court “judges” instead of 7 justices.  And there was no separate courthouse in which to hear cases. Instead, the judges rode throughout the state on horseback. They called this travel “riding the circuit.” The judges carried law books along with clothing in their saddlebags, and they stayed overnight in homes of local residents when they travelled to a county. 

By 1834, Supreme Court judges rode more than 2,000 miles each year and covered 72 counties across the state. Those pioneer judges really needed an automobile!

Fast forward more than 100 years, and you now see the court again going out to Ohioans. I enjoy our twice-a-year journey because the Off-Site Court Program gives students a chance to see us in action and directly experience oral arguments.  And as a 21st century justice, I’m glad we don’t spend those hours on horseback.

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