Children of Ohio Supreme Court Justices Follow Judicial Career Path
While many of the seven Ohio Supreme Court justices are parents and grandparents, Justices Judith Ann Lanzinger and Terrence O’Donnell are among a small group of Ohio jurists whose adult children are also judges.
“When you think about it, we have over 720 judges in the state of Ohio and only seven serve on the Supreme Court of Ohio. So remarkably, with Justice Lanzinger’s son Josh and my daughter Colleen, there are two of the seven who have children that are on the service of the judiciary in Ohio, which is somewhat remarkable,” Justice O’Donnell said.
Colleen O’Donnell was appointed in May to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court bench. Josh Lanzinger was appointed in September and then elected in November to the Toledo Municipal Court.
“It’s nice to have someone in the immediate family that I can look up to and to get advice from for any questions that I might have on the municipal court. My mother has been there on the municipal court and she can relate to some of the issues that I have on the bench,” Judge Lanzinger said.
Justice Lanzinger was not surprised when her son decided to follow in her footsteps: “It seemed that was always his interest and I didn’t want to discourage him or encourage him because it’s really an individual decision, but I can tell you he’s just the right person with the judicial temperament because when he was small he was always the type of kid who was the peacemaker.”
“My exposure to law started very early. And I do specifically remember as a small child going to law school with her. Also remember when she was practicing law sometimes Saturdays going in to the office with her,” Judge Lanzinger commented.
Colleen O’Donnell also remembers watching her father at work on the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court bench.
“Having ended up in the same field that my dad did, and the very same position, he was influential I think in a way that gave me exposure and a comfort level with the legal system and the judicial system and how judges operate,” Judge O’Donnell said.
She added that her father has set an example that she hopes to follow.
“His demeanor and his approach. There really aren’t short cuts. Just sort of put your head down and do the work. Since kindergarten, through today, it’s hard to argue with that advice and that kind of attitude will never fail you.”
For the Lanzingers and the O’Donnells, legal careers seem to run in the family. Justice Lanzinger’s daughter and son-in-law and Justice O’Donnell’s two sons are also lawyers.
Both parents are proud to see their children choose a path to public service.
“I truly think that is the most important thing that a judge can realize – that we are public servants – and I think that’s one of the things that seems to motivate him,” Justice Lanzinger commented about her son.
And of his daughter, Justice O’Donnell said: “She will accomplish what it is she needs to do because she understands how significant her role is and what a privilege she has to participate in this capacity.”
As to whether they will ever run for the Supreme Court – neither second-generation jurist is willing to look past their current public service duties at the municipal and common pleas court levels.