Page 59

[ New to the Court ] fluential professors at Moritz, Lawrence Herman. Because she was earning two degrees, French spent four years at the College, and Herman was her moot court advisor for two of those years. “To this day, he is one of the toughest questioners I’ve been in front of in a court panel,” she said. “He was a great advisor because he could make you feel confident but guide you with a soft hand toward a different way of thinking about a case. That is really a gift.” French has maintained ties to the College as a member its National Council. She also serves on the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission and the board of Amethyst Inc., a center for long-term addiction treatment with safe housing for women and their children. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband, Ed Skeens, a magistrate for the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, and their children Julia, a senior majoring in criminology at Ohio State, and Joseph, a student at Grandview Heights High School. AR

“I am a huge cheerleader for working in the public sector. It’s a wonderful training ground. You get a broad base of experience from talented professionals who could work anywhere they want but choose to work in public service.” – Judith French ’88

COURTESY OF THE OHIO SUPREME COURT

It was Montgomery who picked French as the attorney to defend the state in the Cleveland school voucher case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, in 2002. “I am so grateful to Betty Montgomery for that experience because she had the confidence in me that I was the right person for the job,” French said. “I learned standing there, at the lectern, that I was the right person. I was a single mom. My daughter was in public school. I had been in public schools my whole life. I really felt like I was the right person, no matter the pressure – and there was a lot of pressure from the outside. That’s a really important lesson for a young lawyer to learn.” That day, French said, it seemed as if everything was going their way. Even the weather in Washington, D.C. that February morning was beautiful, she said. In the end, the court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the program was not unconstitutional. French’s career did not start in the public sector, though. After graduating cum laude from Ohio State with a J.D. and a master’s degree in history in 1988, she went to work for Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP. For four years, she focused on environmental permitting, compliance, and enforcement issues before moving on to become corporate counsel of Steelcase Inc. In 1993, French made the move to the public sector, becoming deputy director for legal affairs at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. She advised the director and senior management on issues of state and federal environmental law and managed 25 attorneys. “I always had an interest in government. The Constitution is something that I always have loved to study. So for me, there was sort of a natural progression from being an environmental lawyer to working for a state agency involved in environmental law,” French said. “I am a huge cheerleader for working in the public sector. It’s a wonderful training ground. You get a broad base of experience from talented professionals who could work anywhere they want but choose to work in public service. There also is that layer of public policy that you don’t always get in the private sector.” French spent her holidays becoming familiar with the cases to be heard the first week of arguments in the new year. She is one of three new justices whose first day on the Ohio Supreme Court bench arrived in January. “Clearly there’s going to be a transition period,” she said, “not only for the three new justices to learn the process but to form collegiality among the group. Then, we’ll have the challenges of producing clear, consistent decisions.” Soon after the appointment was made, French received a lovely note from one of her most in-

Moritz College of Law | W I N T E R 2 0 1 3

59

All Rise Winter 2013  

All Rise Winter 2013 - The Creepy Factor

All Rise Winter 2013  

All Rise Winter 2013 - The Creepy Factor

Advertisement