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Safety of judges, opioid crisis focus of State of Judiciary speech

(September 1, 2017) — Less than two week after a Jefferson County judge was shot, Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor expressed the need for security during her State of the Judiciary address Thursday.

Upholding the safety of the judiciary should be a main concern for judges and the state, O’Connor said.

“In this day and age, it’s not a quantum leap for a disturbed individual to think that violence against a judge or a family member or court staff is an appropriate way to deal with a problem,” O’Connor said.

Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese was shot near a county courthouse on Aug. 21 by the father of a Steubenville High School football player who was convicted of rape in 2013. Judge Bruzzese is out of the hospital and recovering, O’Connor said.

“This incident reminds us of the very real potential for violence that each of us could face simply for carrying out our duties as members of the judiciary,” O’Connor said.

Assaults like this are on an attack on a judge’s family, the judicial family and the foundation of society, O’Connor said.

“They are a call for us to remember how dangerous our work can be and how all of us must take measures to ensure our safety and that of our families and staff,” she said.

Courthouse safety audits by the security team at the Supreme Court are a way to help ensure safety in the workplace, O’Connor said.

During her address, she also touched on Ohio’s opioid crisis.

“The problem with this crisis is that it seems to be so intractable, so costly and so endless,” she said.

The Ohio Department of Health reported Wednesday that 4,050 Ohioans died last year from drug poisoning and overdose deaths.

“It’s easy to become cynical and lose hope; to see opioid addicts as untreatable at best and unredeemable at worst,” O’Connor said. “But we cannot forget that

those people who appear in our courtrooms are real people; they’re not just statistics.”