Justice Robert R. Cupp Says Goodbye
With more than 35 years in the legal profession, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp has brought a wealth of experience to the state’s highest court. He leaves the bench at the end of this year with a feeling of accomplishment.
“I think one of the important things that’s happened in the past six years is the court has been able to restore a proper balance between the authority of the general assembly and the court itself,” Justice Cupp said.
Justice Cupp would know about proper balance as he has served in all three branches of government. Prior to sitting on the Ohio Supreme Court, Justice Cupp was a member of the Ohio Senate for 16 years, from 1985 to 2000, and he served as a county commissioner in local government.
“I really felt very blessed to have the opportunity to serve in all three branches of government and see how they work together and they fit together and where there is a little controversy and being able to help resolve that,” Justice Cupp said.
Justice Cupp said he made the switch from making laws to interpreting them because he said judges were misunderstanding the statutes that were passed.
“Well I get asked a lot what did you like better, serving in the legislature or serving as a judge or a justice, and quite frankly they are very different roles, and I have liked them both enormously. Of course I liked making law and developing public policy and representing my constituents, but just as important is the cases that come in attempting to resolve disputes about what the law means and how the law applies to particular facts and circumstances,” Justice Cupp said.
Justice Cupp said he’ll miss his colleagues and the court the most.
“I have to say working with the colleagues that I have had on the court here for the last six years has been a real joy. This has been what we call a collegial court, that people get along very well, don’t always come to the same conclusion as to cases – sometimes we have very vigorous debates – but they have always been very professional and very civil, and the members of the court genuinely like each other,” Justice Cupp said.
Justice Cupp also credits his wife, Libby, for keeping the peace among the seven justices as she liked to bake cupcakes and brownies for them before they heard arguments and while the justices deliberated their decisions.
“Of course people can’t get too upset with each other when they’re eating sweet things, and so I think that my wife, Libby, has put an imprint onto the court, too, in terms of helping the amiability of the justices,” Justice Cupp said.
Justice Cupp was defeated in the November election, but he said he’ll continue to seek out opportunities in the legal field.
“I do hope that I have the opportunity to use my experience and background to continue serving in some capacity, either people with their individual legal problems or in some way in civic or public service,” Justice Cupp said.
He said he is too restless to retire just yet, but said he does want to spend more time with Libby and his grandchildren.
More on Justice Cupp:
Prior to his election to the Supreme Court of Ohio in November 2006, Justice Robert R. Cupp served on the Ohio Court of Appeals, Third Appellate District, which is composed of 17 counties in northwest and west central Ohio. He was selected presiding judge of the court in 2005 and administrative judge in 2004.
Much of Justice Cupp’s 30-year legal career has been committed to public service. Before becoming a judge, Justice Cupp served 16 years as a member of the Ohio Senate, beginning in 1985 and ending in 2000 with the advent of Ohio’s legislative term limits. Before his election to the General Assembly, Justice Cupp served as a Lima city prosecutor and assistant director of law from 1976 to 1980 and twice was elected Allen County commissioner, serving from 1981 through 1984 and 2001 through 2002. Additionally, Justice Cupp engaged in the private practice of law in Lima for more than 25 years and is a member of the Allen County and Ohio State Bar Associations.
In the Senate, Justice Cupp served as president pro tempore, the second-highest Senate leader, from 1997 through 2000. As chairman of the Civil Justice Subcommittee, and a 10-year member of the Judiciary Committee, he focused on civil and criminal justice issues. As a member of the Education Committee, he worked extensively on education and school finance improvement issues. As chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee, he worked to improve the state’s workers’ compensation system. Additionally, he served at various times on the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee and the Finance, Agriculture, Ways and Means, State and Local Government, and Legislative Information Systems committees.
Justice Cupp was born in rural Allen County and grew up on his family’s farm. He earned his political science degree with high distinction from Ohio Northern University in 1973 and his law degree from Ohio Northern’s Pettit College of Law in 1976. As a student at ONU, he served as president of the Student Senate. Justice Cupp’s wife, Libby, is a retired educator. They have two grown sons, Matthew and Ryan, and two grandchildren.