Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French spoke with Van Wert High School government students Wednesday. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French spoke with Van Wert High School government students Wednesday. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)

VAN WERT — A classroom of Van Wert High School government students had the chance to consult the resource of a lifetime today. The students, who are preparing for a moot trial competition at the Supreme Court of Ohio in Columbus received a visit from Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French. French, a justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio since January 2013 when she was appointed by Gov. John Kasich to be the 155th justice of the court.

The students in Bob Priest’s AP Government class were focused on using French’s experience and expertise to help them prepare for the competition slated for May 20 at the Supreme Court building by the Ohio Center for Law-related Education.

French was pleased with the opportunity to talk to the students, and also the fact that the students were looking for that practical advice.

“It’s a wonderful reminder of why the court is important, and why the work I do is important,” she stated after the session concluded. “I find that part of my role is to be involved in civic education. One of the things I need to be as a Supreme Court Justice is a resource to people. That means I need to be a resource to students, I need to be a resource to educators, to help them understand what we do, why we do it, and why it is important. These kids have the advantage of being involved in a moot court competition where the issue is one they can really relate to, so it’s a little bit easier for them to put it in that context. If I were in their shoes, I would want a justice to be giving practical advice, not just talking lofty legal issues, but really talking about things they will be facing in a few weeks: being at the court, and being nervous, and giving an oral argument. This was a real treat for me to be able to give some practical advice to them. I’ll be watching their progress.”

“You never know what direction it’s going to take, sometimes they want to ask about law schools or majors or college, or something like that,” French shared. Then other times, like today, it’s much more about issues and or presentation, given what they are facing in a couple of weeks. So I’m glad I was able to be here today.”

“It was great to have you answer specific questions with what they are doing,” teacher Bob Priest added.

French had been scheduled to speak for a class last fall, but that was cancelled when the school closed that day for fog. Both French and Priest agreed that it worked out much better to link the students with French at this time.

A moot court competition is similar to a mock trial competition in which Van Wert students have competed in the past. But a moot court event focuses on an appellate case rather than a bench trial or jury trial. French told the students of her own experiences in such competitions as well as arguing before the United States Supreme Court.

French also talked about what is coming for the Supreme Court of Ohio. She predicted, “These energy cases are going to dominate. Whatever a stampede sounds like in the distance, that’s what I hear coming. The oil and gas exploration issues are going to be before us, we’ve had our first one, I know we have other ones coming. Those are the issues that are going to dominate for the next few years.”