One Decade after Sudden Loss, Chief Justice Moyer's Legacy Endures
By Csaba Sukosd | April 2, 2020
For 24 years, Chief Justice Thomas Moyer was the face of the Ohio Supreme Court. Despite his unexpected passing during the final year of his final term, his impact on people, and the legal profession, is still felt.
Thursday marks the 10-year anniversary of his death at the age of 70.
"I remember exactly where I was, and it's even hard to talk about that today," said former justice Paul Pfeifer, who served with Moyer on the state's high court for 17 years.
His void was - and still is - sensed by the many people he influenced. That was evidenced in May 2010, a month after his death, at his memorial tribute where hundreds of mourners came from across the country to remember the former Buckeye at the Ohio Union.
"Tom Moyer not only cared about the law, and justice, but he cared about people in a way that is an example to all of us.," said then-Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton during the ceremony.
Her reference was specific to Chief Justice Moyer's advocacy of drug courts. His foresight put Ohio at the forefront of judicial reform. He saw how drug courts helped participants with substance use issues save their lives. The highlight of these programs for courts and participants is the graduation ceremony, where successful applicants share their emotions and experiences about the challenging road to recovery. Chief Justice Moyer described it as, "real-life art and literature," and, "a beautiful courtroom drama," during his 2008 State of the Judiciary address.
Another form of rehabilitation propelled the then-appellate court judge to become Ohio's highest judicial officer in 1986. He took on not only repairing his predecessor's frayed relationships within the legal community, but also establishing a greater trust with the general public. He valued the importance of visibility and availability.
"I always used to joke that he was so accessible that he would do anything anybody asked him to, any event," said Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor.
His ability to work with people, especially in all three branches of government, created his most-lasting relic: an $85-million restoration that gave the Supreme Court a home. In May 2004, the state's court of last resort moved into the renovated Ohio Departments Building, and for the first time in its history, the Supreme Court was housed separate from the executive and legislative branches.
"It speaks to Tom's perception, his belief, in the judicial branch of government, [and its] independence. I think this building symbolizes the independence of the judiciary," Chief Justice O'Connor said.
In December 2011, the venue was renamed the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center. The space serves as an introduction to those who never knew him, and a constant reminder to those who worked alongside him for years, such as Diane Hayes, the Supreme Court's judicial assignment specialist.
"I'm very glad that his portrait is in our Grand Concourse, because it's nice to walk in every day, and see him," Hayes said.