The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants will welcome Supreme Court Justice Judith French as our guest speaker at this year’s Annual Meeting (November 12, 2019; Athletic Club of Columbus).

More About Justice French

Judi French became a justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio in January 2013 and was elected to her first full term in 2014. She has traveled throughout Ohio, visiting all 88 counties many times. With a history of public service and wide-ranging legal experience, a passion for equal justice, and a special interest in civic education, Justice French is committed to serving as a resource for the people of Ohio.

A History of Public Service

For more than two decades, Justice French has dedicated her career to public service. In that time, she has served as a lawyer for a state agency, an assistant attorney general, counsel to the Governor, and, finally, as a judge.

In 1993, she joined the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as deputy director for legal affairs. From 1997 to 2002, she worked for Attorney General Betty Montgomery as an assistant attorney general, and later as chief counsel.

During her time in the Attorney General’s Office, Justice French argued two cases before the United States Supreme Court. One of those cases was the Cleveland school vouchers case, in which she served as lead counsel. Her successful presentation of the state’s position helped ensure equitable educational opportunities for every Ohio student.

From 2002 to 2004, Justice French served as chief legal counsel to Governor Bob Taft. In that role, she served as the chair of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Task Force, which made recommendations to the legislature for making Ohio’s sex-offender laws more effective.

In 2004, Justice French was elected as a judge on the Tenth District Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from Franklin County courts and state administrative agencies. While a judge on the court of appeals for eight years, she authored more than 800 legal opinions.

In December 2012, Governor John Kasich appointed Justice French to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of Ohio. She became the 155th justice of the Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 1, 2013.

And in 2015, United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts appointed her to serve on the Federal Appellate Rules Committee.

A Wide Breadth of Legal Experience

Although her 25 years of public service are critical to her understanding of state laws and the Ohio judicial system, Justice French also has the benefit of experience in the corporate and private-practice arenas. She began her career as an attorney with the Columbus law firm of Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, specializing in environmental law. Justice French also served as in-house counsel for a large manufacturing company.

A Passion for Equal Access to Justice

Justice French understands the critical need for access to our judicial system and the current gap between that need and the resources available to Ohioans who cannot afford a lawyer. In 2013, Justice French served as a member of the Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Task Force, which recommended immediate and practical remedies to widen judicial access. Today, working with the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation and legal-aid organizations around the state, Justice French advocates for changes and programs that will ensure access to justice for all Ohioans.

A Special Interest in Education

The daughter of a schoolteacher, Justice French appreciates her Ohio roots and education, and she is committed to being a part of civic education in Ohio. As an attorney, she served as a tutor and mentor in the Columbus Public Schools and she currently serves as a College Bound mentor for Franklin County Children’s Services. She frequently speaks to students from around Ohio, whether in their classrooms or at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.

Her Ohio Roots

Justice French grew up in Sebring, Ohio, a small town in Mahoning County. She graduated from Sebring McKinley High School in 1980, when she started her undergraduate studies at The Ohio State University.

She received three degrees from OSU: a B.A. in political science, an M.A. in history (with a concentration in military history and strategic studies), and a J.D., with honors. She is a member of the Moritz College of Law National Council, and in 2018 was awarded the college’s Distinguished Jurist Award for her work on the bench.

Justice Judi French currently resides in Grandview Heights, near Columbus, with her husband. They have two children.