By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
OTTAWA — The Ohio Supreme Court convened Wednesday at Ottawa-Glandorf High School for its first off-site session in Putnam County, giving local high school students an up-close look at oral arguments.
Prior to convening, the justices explained to the students, who were from Ottawa-Glandorf as well as the other Putnam County high schools, that after hearing arguments from the lawyers, the justices would gather in a conference room — in this case the band room — to discuss the arguments.
The justices would take a tentative vote and decide who will write the opinion, then circulate a draft opinion. Additional discussion and writing is possible before the final opinion is issued.
The students had a chance to ask the justices about dissenting opinions, interesting or memorable cases and how they became justices.
Dissenting opinions don’t always have an effect, or if they do, it might not be for decades, Justice Patrick Fischer said. He gave the example of Plessy v. Ferguson being overturned by Brown v. Board of Education on the issue of public school segregation nearly 60 years later.
Justice Mary DeGenaro, who joined the court in January when she replaced Bill O’Neill, said some of her most interesting previous cases dealt with oil and gas issues, and that some of her dissenting opinions in that area were adopted by the state Supreme Court before she arrived.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said “there’s no more serious case to deal with than the death penalty case, and I think all my colleagues would agree “¦ we make the decision, but it’s not over when you make the decision. That lingers with you. Death penalty cases, at least with me, they linger, because the facts are oftentimes horrific.”
The facts in a murder case have an impact, she said, adding that she can still remember details of those cases from when she joined the court in 2003.
Explaining her career path, Justice Sharon Kennedy said she originally wanted to be a police officer, and laughed when a high school teacher told her she could be a lawyer.
Through law enforcement, she met a lawyer and a judge for the first time, and realized their backgrounds weren’t what she had assumed.
“Their parents hadn’t gone to college. Their parents grew up in the Great Depression with very little. And they were able to succeed to go to college and then become a lawyer and then eventually a judge,” Kennedy said.
“The world is yours,” she told the students. “You are at an age and time where you can do anything.”
Lawyers then presented arguments in three cases.
The first, National Collegiate Athletic Association et al. v. Steven Schmitz et al., involves a now-deceased Notre Dame football player, Steven Schmitz, and his wife Yvette, who sued Notre Dame after Schmitz was diagnosed in 2012 with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Schmitz played football in the 1970s, and Notre Dame and the NCAA say the case was filed too late. The lawyer for Notre Dame and the NCAA argues that the 2012 diagnosis shouldn’t restart the statute of limitations that expired decades ago.
The Schmitzes’ lawyer argues that Schmitz didn’t know during his playing career that he was injured.
The second case, State of Ohio v. Darin K. Ireland, concerns a man who assaulted another man at a bar and says he did so while experiencing a blackout caused by PTSD.
The prosecution and defense disagree over whether Ireland needs to provide evidence that he acted involuntarily because of blacking out.
The issue in the third case, State of Ohio v. Jeffrey Bowshier, is whether a dispute over the value of forfeited property is frivolous.
Bowshier says it isn’t frivolous, and wants the court to order a new lawyer be appointed to continue his appeal.