Supreme Court of Ohio

Ohio Supreme Court Justices.jpg
Photograph of the Ohio Supreme Court Justices by the Baker Art Gallery, ca. 1880-1915.

The Ohio Constitution of 1803 established the Supreme Court of Ohio. Initially, the court consisted of three justices. The Ohio legislature initially appointed the justices to the Supreme Court. Plaintiffs and defendants could appeal the decisions of the Court of Common Pleas to the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Ohio Constitution of 1803 also required the justices to hold court in each of Ohio's counties at least once per year. This process became known as "riding the circuit." The intention was to insure that all Ohioans had the chance to have their cases heard.

When Ohio became a state in 1803, Samuel Huntington, Return J. Meigs, Jr., and William Sprigg served as the first justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio. In 1804, Huntington became Chief Justice of the court.

Perhaps the most important case to come before the Supreme Court of Ohio in its early years was Rutherford v. M'Fadden (1807). Following the precedent set by the Supreme Court of the United States, Huntington and his fellow justices determined that the court had the right to declare state laws unconstitutional. This decision placed the court at odds with members of the state legislature, who felt that the court was trying to reduce their power to make laws. In response to the Supreme Court's decision in Rutherford v. M'Fadden, the state legislature sought to impeach two Court of Common Pleas judges for decisions similar to the Rutherford v. M'Fadden case. These impeachment proceedings were ultimately unsuccessful. The two judges, Calvin Pease and George Tod, maintained their positions by a single vote each. Despite the legislature's efforts to weaken the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Rutherford v. M'Fadden decision established the right to review the constitutionality of legislative and gubernatorial actions

The make up of the Ohio Supreme Court has changed since 1803. In 1851, Ohio voters approved a new state constitution. Under the new constitution, five justices served on the Supreme Court of Ohio. The voters also elected the justices to their positions. Amendments to the Ohio Constitution in 1912 increased the number of justices to seven and set the justices' terms at six years with the possibility of reelection. Since the constitutional amendments of 1912, no major changes have occurred in the number of justices or the powers of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

The Supreme Court of Ohio has relocated several times in its history. In 1857, the Supreme Court moved to the Ohio Statehouse, and in 1901, the court relocated to the Judiciary Annex in downtown Columbus, Ohio. In 1974, the justices began to hold court in the James A. Rhodes State Office Tower, before moving to its current home, the Ohio Judicial Center, in 2004. All of these buildings have been located in Columbus.


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