An Ohio Supreme Court justice says visiting schools usually is an enjoyable experience and is part of a civic education opportunity.
"Whenever I get invited, I like to go. ... It's an opportunity to explain how our court system works," said Robert Cupp, who has served on the court for five years.
Cupp spoke to students at Calvert High School during a visit to Tiffin Thursday. Senior Ryan Somers, who was part of a group of students that traveled to Columbus last school year and met various state officials, served as the justice's host.
Cupp said the court system is a mystery to a lot of people. The system's purpose, he said, is to protect individual rights, protect property rights and resolve disputes.
"Everybody has an opportunity for equal ... justice, a ruling in their favor, if the law is in their favor," he said.
Cupp said, on average, about 10,000 cases in Ohio are decided every working day by judges in the various courts.
"That's quite a large number of people into our court system. ... (The Supreme Court has) about 2,300 cases filed each year," he said.
The court system has trial courts, such as common pleas and municipal, and Cupp said that is where most people have contact with the system. It also has three-member courts of appeals, with Ohio being divided into 12 districts, and the seven-member state Supreme Court, which sees cases as its discretion.
The Supreme Court is the last stop and has the final word, Cupp said.
"We encourage visitors to come (to Ohio Judicial Center). ... It's a beautiful place to see," he said.
Cupp said one chief justice presides over the court, and for the first time in Ohio history, the chief justice is a female.
"(Maureen O'Connor) is the 10th chief justice," he said.
Also, for the second time in state history, the Supreme Court has a female majority.
"It's no longer the gender barrier that it used to be," he said.
Cupp also explained the process for becoming a judge in Ohio.
First, he said, a person who aspires to be a judge or justice must become a lawyer, which requires a college degree, attendance at law school and passage of Ohio Bar Examination. The person then is sworn in as a lawyer.
"You still can't be a judge," he said.
Cupp said law requires a lawyer to have at least six years of experience practicing law before he or she is qualified to be a judge. A judge must be elected or appointed by the governor when there is a vacancy, he said.
The last day of Cupp's current term is Jan. 1, 2013, according to the court's website. The backgrounds of the justices on the Supreme Court are different, he said.
Three were trial court judges, one was born in Thailand to missionary parents, one was a teacher before becoming a lawyer and two were raised on family farms.
"Our members are from different parts of the state," said Cupp, who is from the Lima area.
On the Web:
Ohio Supreme Court: