By Sam Wildow
TROY — Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine visited the Troy Rotary Club on Tuesday, sharing insight on Ohio’s judicial system and walking them through the court’s processes during the luncheon meeting held at Smiths’ Boathouse Restaurant, 439 N. Elm St.
DeWine was elected to the Supreme Court of Ohio in November 2016. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law where he teaches Appellate Practice and Procedure. DeWine has served on all levels of the Ohio Judiciary, holding office as a Court of Appeals and Common Pleas Court judge prior to joining the Supreme Court.
DeWine’s presentation focused on civic education, discussing the role of the Ohio Supreme Court and highlighting a recent case over which the Ohio Supreme Court presided.
“Our court system is often the least understood branch of government,” said DeWine. “I think it is important as judges that we go out and talk to people about what our courts do and why it matters.”
DeWine first discussed how members of the Ohio Supreme Court are elected and not appointed, making the justices accountable to the state residents. DeWine added later that they serve six-year terms on the Ohio Supreme Court, and while they do not have term limits, justices have an age limit of 70 years old.
“Ninety percent of the cases in this country are going to be heard in the state court,” DeWine said. “State court is where the real work’s done.”
He said he feels the most important job of the court is to protect people’s rights, adding the court system can also impact the economy and public safety. DeWine said businesses may not want to make investments where there is “legal uncertainty.”
“Sometimes our courts work the best even when we don’t see them,” DeWine said. “They’re in the background. Think about something as simple as buying a house.” DeWine pointed out having an effective court system makes contracts, like those made when purchasing a house, meaningful and allows society to function.
DeWine then discussed a case the Ohio Supreme Court recently presided over, which involved two floral shops in Wooster and a debate over the use of a domain name. Green Thumb Floral purchased a domain name for woosterfloral.com, redirecting visitors of that website to its main website at greenthumbfloralandgifts.com. Another floral shop by the name of Wooster Floral & Gifts argued that action violated state trade laws and argued it “creates a likelihood of confusion,” DeWine said. During the bench trial, the judge decided there was no violation.
DeWine followed the process of how the lawsuit went through the Wayne County Common Pleas Court, to the appellate court, and then to the Ohio Supreme Court. While an appeal to the appellate courts is guaranteed, it is not a guarantee that the Ohio Supreme Court will see a case once an appellate court has made its decision.
“You have a right to ask,” DeWine said. He said the court received approximately 1,100 requests last year for them to hear cases, and they only accepted 43 cases. The court tries to pick cases where it feels there is an issue that needs resolved at a statewide level, he said.
Ultimately, the Ohio Supreme Court sided with the original trial court that there was no deceptive trade practices, and DeWine was randomly selected to write the majority opinion.
“When I write, I try to think about the losing party,” DeWine said. “We set the precedents the other courts have to apply in Ohio.”