Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Former Judge Speaks about Historic ‘Firsts’ at Ohio Supreme Court Black History Month Event

All it took was a lost bet. Janet E. Jackson went to law school because she lost a bet to her fiancé.

“It was really because I had never thought about it and because when I looked around in my world, I had no role models. I had never personally met an African American Lawyer,” Jackson said.

The bet paid off in the long run as Jackson went on to became the first African American woman to serve on any Franklin County court. She was 34 years old when she was appointed to the municipal court bench and served there for 10 years. She then became the first woman to serve as the Columbus city attorney, where she worked for 6 years. Today she’s the CEO and president of United Way of Central Ohio.

“I’ve taken on the mantel many times of being the first, but one of the things I never want to be is the last,” Jackson said.

Jackson said she’s witnessed a lot of change on the bench and bar from when she first received her law degree in the 1970s. She spoke about those changes and the need for improving diversity in the judicial system at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center during the Ohio Supreme Court’s fifth Black History Month Celebration.

“In honor of a month dedicated to celebrating the many accomplishments of African Americans in the past, we need to ensure that we can create the opportunities necessary for more great achievements in the future,” Jackson said.

Jackson said while great strides are being made daily, there is still a long way to go.

“Any system of justice that does not adequately reflect the diversity of the constituents its serves will struggle to find harmony with those constituents and the community as a whole,” Jackson said. “I truly believe that embracing inclusion and diversity is not an option. It’s a necessity.”

The Black History Month Celebration also featured McKenna Sinclair Hensley, the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Oratorical Contest Junior Division winner, and Maya Gordon, a senior at the Charles School at Ohio Dominican University and a dancer on the Thiossane West African Dance Institute.