Supreme Court coming to Marietta

MARIETTA — The Ohio Supreme Court will come to Marietta to mark the 30th anniversary of the court’s off-site program, which began in the bicentennial year of the establishment of the Northwest Territories, 1987.

Marietta was chosen to be the first site in honor of its status as first city of the Northwest Territories, said program director Sara Stiffler, and it seemed appropriate to return on the program’s 30th anniversary.

The seven justices will hear oral arguments in three cases, starting at 9 a.m. Oct. 18 in the auditorium of Marietta High School. The session is open to the public, but students in Washington County schools are going to be the real beneficiaries.

Jason Johnson teaches government to juniors, and a few seniors, at Warren High School. He will be taking 110 to 120 students to witness the event, he said. The Warren group will hear the second case of the day, The State of Ohio v. Deandre Gordon, a criminal appeal.

The students will not only witness the arguments, they’ll be able to incorporate the experience into their studies.

“It’s a really neat thing because they have this so organized, with this pretty amazing booklet, so we can give lessons to students to prepare them,” Johnson said.

On Thursday, he said, the classes were visited by two Marietta attorneys — Ray Smith and Dennis Sipe — who reviewed legal terminology with them.

“Even though we’re only there for the morning, we’ve started doing activities, the students will spend several days doing this work, we have a day with the lawyers, and it culminates with the hearing and having a debriefing with the lawyers,” Johnson said. “The students will get an amazing view of our court system.”

It will be more than an exercise for some of Johnson’s students.

“Because of a mock trial program, we actually have a club, and quite a few students are interested in doing law as a profession,” he said.

Johnson said the sitting will fit well with the government curriculum, which includes examination of how the Ohio Constitution has changed since 1851 — which was the year the supreme court settled in Columbus and stopped being an itinerant body. It didn’t move around regularly until the off-site sitting program began in October 1987 in Marietta.

“Government is an exchange of ideas,” Johnson said. “We try to do a mock Congress, mock trials, but it’s really hard to show students a problem out of a book. It’s neat to actually see it, especially at the state level … It just doesn’t happen a lot, and they’re going to bring it to us.”

John Bostic, a social studies teacher at Fort Frye High School, and government teacher Bobbi Webb expect to bring about 44 students to the sitting.

They are scheduled to hear the third case of the day, the Ohio State Bar Association v. Lance Timothy Mason, which involves a disciplinary proceeding against a former judge.

Like Warren, Fort Frye will have the benefit of learning from lawyers before the event.

“The appearance by the Ohio State Supreme Court on location is important for many reasons,” Bostic said. “It is not only a privilege for the City of Marietta and Marietta High School to host the Supreme Court, but it is also an opportunity for students to see the inner workings of our Ohio judicial system, the operations of the judicial branch and how our democratic principles of due process operate.”

On Sept. 11, Superintendent Doug Baldwin notified the board of the Wolf Creek Local school district that students from Waterford High School would be the first group at the sitting.

“We will be there at 6:50 a.m., and the seven justices will come out and the students will have the opportunity to ask them questions,” Baldwin said. “We’re the only group to get that.”

Sara Stiffler of the Ohio Supreme Court Off-Site Court Program said Tuesday that all school districts in Washington County are sending students to the sitting.

The oral arguments start at 9 a.m., with a break between each of the three cases being heard. Stiffler said anyone attending should be prepared to go through security similar to that found in an airport.

The first case to be heard, Kerns v. Simmers, is a civil matter involving several landowners who allege that oil and gas interests are attempting to illegally take their land.

The second case, Ohio v. Deandre Gordon, seeks to overturn a lower court ruling that a man convicted of violent crimes in the Cleveland area was tried under improper circumstances.

The third case, the Ohio State Bar Association v. Lance Timothy Mason, involves disbarment proceedings against a former judge.

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A Closer Look

* What: Off-site sitting of the Ohio Supreme Court

* When: Starting at 9 a.m. Oct. 18

* Where: Marietta High School auditorium

* Cost: Free, open to everyone

* Calendar details:

Case No. 1: 2016-1011, Keith J. Kerns et al v. Richard J. Simmers, Chief, and Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Case No. 2: 2016-1462, State of Ohio v. Deandre Gordon.

Case No. 3: 2017-0794, Ohio State Bar Association v. Lance Timothy Mason.

* To view the case documents online, go to supremecourt.ohio.gov/Clerk/ecms/#/search and enter the year and case number into the search windows.

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