LIMA — Judith French has been on the Ohio Supreme Court bench for two months, and she’s just settling in.
“The first few times I heard arguments, I felt like I was always trying to catch my breath. We have had several. I wouldn’t say it’s old hat, but I feel comfortable,” French said.
She was appointed to the court at the beginning of the year to fill a vacancy. In 2014, French will campaign for the position, which has a six-year term. She is trying to get her name out.
French recognizes most people cannot name the justices of the state’s highest court. And name recognition, even more than a true understanding of the work they do, is important.
“The key is to get to as many places as I can,” French said. She said she wants to hit every county in the state to let people know a little bit about her.
“I want the respect that goes along with it,” she said.
French, 50, said the first two months on the court have been amazing.
“I’m still in awe. I can’t help but walk in that building and take it in,” she said.
She said she almost began to cry the first time she walked in as a justice of the court.
“I thought that would be very unjustice-like,” she said.
French, who spent eight years on the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus, is the only justice from Columbus. She’s also a former assistant Ohio Attorney General.
French believes in sound decisions. She also believes timely decisions are important to the parties and people of Ohio. She supports the election process, instead of appointments, saying it holds judges accountable.
Besides her legal work, French wants to expand educational opportunity as it relates to the court. She said that mission could include traveling to junior high and high school classrooms to talk to students about the court and show them what a real-life justice looks like.
“I joke with some kids there’s no height requirement for the Supreme Court. You can be a boy or girl or come from a small town,” she said, making a joke about her height.