Justice Yvette McGee Brown Bids Farewell to the Court
Justice Yvette McGee Brown’s journey to the Ohio Supreme Court started 20 years ago.
“I was 32 and I was chief counsel of the Department of Youth Services and I didn’t like seeing kids locked up, and I felt like I was on the wrong side of the cases because my job was to keep them incarcerated. So I didn’t feel good about that and I thought that if I became a juvenile court judge then I could keep kids from ending up in the system and it was just my way of making a difference,” Justice McGee Brown said.
Justice McGee Brown spent nine years on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and another eight off the bench to create the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital before she was appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2010. As Justice McGee Brown leaves the Supreme Court this week, she reflected on her time on the bench and her career in public service.
“It’s been an amazing two years. I don’t regret it at all. Having a chance to, one, be one of the justices of the Ohio Supreme Court, I’m only the 153rd justice in 208 years, so the ability to be a part of Ohio’s history is very humbling to me. I’ll always remember it, but I think you know, probably the most wonderful thing has been the personal relationships that I have and that I’ll always keep. I found unexpected friendships and I’m going to miss them the most,” Justice McGee Brown said.
“When the governor first talked to me after the 2010 election if I would want to be appointed to the Supreme Court, my initial response was, ‘um, I’m not sure but I don’t think so.’ And then Maureen O’Connor called me on the phone and somehow she heard…she called me to urge me to consider taking the appointment and then Justice Stratton… So they were both very encouraging and then it started to impact me how important this was for people being the first African American woman.”
People across Ohio viewed her appointment as a step forward for diversity.
“There hadn’t been an African American on this court in more than 40 years and so for people across the state that mattered,” Justice McGee Brown said. “The sense of pride in the African American community at me being here was really overwhelming and something I think I didn’t really appreciate and so it was wonderful. That kind of pride and support and good wishes, I mean people were more devastated about this loss than I was.”
While Justice McGee Brown is a role model to hundreds in Ohio’s community, it’s her own grandmother who was hers.
“She always was positive and she always had hope and she always made us believe that anything was possible, so I just admire her so much. I mean I think about her every day.”
Justice McGee Brown said she’ll always remember her time on the Ohio Supreme Court.
“I am sincere when I say I will never regret this experience. It was two magnificent years. This is a really good team of people, and I’m just honored to have been here.”
Justice McGee Brown said she’s not sure what her next job will be, though she said her phone is ringing. She did say it will not be as an elected official.
“I want it to do something that’s interesting, where I can feel like I’m making a contribution and where I think I can be happy…I’m excited about the future. I’m one of those people that always looks forward.”
More on Justice McGee Brown:
A series of firsts defines the life and career of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown. A first-generation college graduate, Justice McGee Brown is the first African-American woman elected to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. When she left the common pleas bench, she founded a nationally recognized organization that redefines how hospitals, law enforcement and social welfare groups respond to children and families caught in the cycle of abuse. In January 2011, she became the first African-American woman to serve as a justice on the state's highest court.
Justice McGee Brown was elected to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations and Juvenile division, in 1992. In 2002, she retired from the bench to create the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. The Center is a multi-disciplinary child abuse and family violence program that co-locates prevention, assessment, treatment, research and advocacy services for children and families experiencing abuse.
Justice McGee Brown has been an active community and corporate leader. She has served on the boards of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Ohio University, the OSU Wexner Medical Center, the National Council of the OSU Moritz College of Law, M/I Homes Inc., and Fifth Third Bank of Central Ohio. She is the former chair of the United Way of Central Ohio, The Ohio State University Alumni Association and the YWCA Columbus Board of Directors. In 2008, Justice McGee Brown was inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame.
Justice McGee Brown graduated from Ohio University in 1982 with a degree in journalism/public relations. She continued her education at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, earning her juris doctor in 1985. She has honorary doctorate degrees from Ohio Dominican University, Wilberforce University, and Central State University.
Justice McGee Brown is married to Tony Brown. They have three children and one grandson.