Justice: Energy Will Dominate the Docket

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French predicts energy-related cases will dominate the court’s docket in years to come.

Lower courts are already seeing large numbers of filings regarding property ownership and mineral rights, and French said the majority of these cases will proceed through appellate courts to the Ohio Supreme Court.

“I think just energy in general will dominate the court docket once those cases get started,” she said. “In this part of the state, it’s about oil and gas. But in the western part of the state, it’s about wind. … The environmental issues could also come our way.”

French addressed the Bethesda-Belmont-Morristown Rotary Club on Wednesday at the Epworth Center in Bethesda. Earlier in the day, she spoke to students at Union Local High School about the path she took to become a justice.

She became the 155th justice of the Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 1, 2013. She was appointed to the bench by Gov. John R. Kasich to fill the spot left vacant following the retirement of Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratto.

Prior to her appointment, French served as judge at the Tenth District Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from Franklin County courts and state administrative agencies.

She grew up in Sebring, Ohio and said she worked at McDonald’s as a teenager to pay for her education. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science, a masters in military history and strategic studies and a law degree all from Ohio State University.

“My message is while growing up in a small community you shouldn’t feel limited, that there are opportunities,” French said.

She added she has ties to West Virginia, and her own immigration story to tell students. She explained her grandparents were farmers in Ripley, W.Va. who moved to the Mahoning Valley “to get jobs.” Her husband, Ed Skeens, is a native of Lewisburg, W.Va. He is a magistrate in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.