[ Her life’s mission ] Stratton’s passion for certain projects is palpable, including her reform work with mental health courts, juvenile justice, and veterans’ treatment courts.
Finding her calling At 18, Stratton returned to the United States by herself to attend college. She had $500 and needed to work her way through colleges in Florida and Texas, where she met her first husband, an Ohioan. After getting married, she finished earning her degree in international relations at the University of Akron in 1976. “Someone said to me, ‘You like to write. You like to act. Why don’t you become a lawyer?’ ” Stratton recalled. She jokes that she had never met a lawyer or seen an episode of Perry Mason, yet she knew she wanted to be a judge from the start of her law school career at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. “I happen to have a fairly religious streak still, and I always thought of it as my calling.” Working her way through school again, Stratton would study her law books behind the cosmetics counter at Lazarus. She had little time for any carefree moments in law school, saying, “I didn’t get as involved as law students do in the total immersion thing, which I think was good. It kept me grounded.” Upon graduating in 1979, Stratton worked for a Columbus firm. While her work was valued, it was clear that a woman partner was not welcomed. Friends invited her to join them in creating their own firm – coming in at the partner level. Her practice focused on insurance defense and business law mostly. She started a side practice in adoption that mushroomed.
Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton ’79 reads a box of legal briefs on the back deck of her Worthington, Ohio home in 2012. Stratton and the other Ohio Supreme Court Justices read 5 feet of legal briefs every two weeks, on average.
>> lean-to structures hastily constructed on sidewalks and sleeping in rooms with two triple-bunked beds. “I always was a skinny kid, so I usually got the top bunk,” Stratton said, chuckling.
T H E O H I O S TAT E U N I V E R S I T Y
Yet, Stratton had not given up on her long-term goal of becoming a judge, and the opportunity presented itself nine years out of law school, when she was 34 years old. The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas had six seats open, and there were five men in the Republican Party prepared to run. They needed a woman, and Stratton received the nod to run. She went up against the only incumbent on the bench. After winning, she immediately ran up against male chauvinism and bureaucracy. She found ways to work around it, though. She and Judge Michael Close conspired to work together so he would present her projects at the judges’ meetings. Issues that would have met a brick wall, had she raised them, sailed through. Meanwhile, she worked with the state bar association on other issues to keep her energies focused. Stratton was earning a reputation for being very active in working on reforms when Republican Party insiders called her one day to say that Ohio Supreme Court Justice J. Craig Wright was resigning a year early. Could they float her name to thenGov. George Voinovich ’61? “I had no political connections or family or money,” Stratton said. The call caught her off guard, but she eventually agreed to the idea. She met with Voinovich prior to her appointment on March 7, 1996. Fellow justices say she is respectful, open-minded, and able to recall specifics of cases heard a decade before when deliberating. “Eve is a hardworking colleague who is well-prepared and fair. She is an independent thinker and provides valuable insight into case decision-making,” said Justice Terrence O’Donnell. “Her opinions are well-written and well-reasoned. These are the reasons she is so highly valued by her colleagues on the bench and in the bar.” In addition to finding personal satisfaction with serving in the state’s highest court, Stratton also appreciates the ability she has to work on issues important to her. “This job has so much flexibility with the kinds of projects you can work on that I would never have been able to do at the federal level.” Advocating for others Stratton’s passion for certain projects is palpable, including her reform work with mental health courts, juvenile justice, and veterans’ treatment courts. She helped change the ways juveniles are evaluated for competency and represented in criminal cases. Stratton continues to work on how juveniles are treated once bound over to adult prisons, as well. “There’s a lot of changes we can make there. For example, there’s no child psychologist. The
All Rise Winter 2013 - The Creepy Factor