Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon L. Kennedy started her career in the justice system wearing a badge. She was a cop for the city of Hamilton in Butler County, near Cincinnati. Later on, she was a domestic relations court judge for 14 years, handling cases for families and children.
It is a perspective unique among the justices of Ohio's top court, whose collective experiences come from backgrounds including probate, municipal, common pleas and appellate courts, but not domestic relations court.
"They're grateful I'm there with that experience," Kennedy said.
Shesaid being elected to the court is more than she thought she would achieve in her life."I thought law enforcement was my ceiling," she said of her early career. But others urged her to go higher. The first was a high school teacher and the second was a judge she clerked for.
Born in a working-class family, she was the first in her family to graduate college. From driving a patrol car, Kennedy got her law degree and went into private practice as a sole practitioner rather than joining a firm.
From there she went on to work as special counsel for Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery.
She then served in the Domestic Relations Division of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas since 1999. From 2005 until joining the top court, Kennedy served as the administrative judge of the division.
Kennedy, in town for a reception with the Portage County Bar Association, chatted with the Record-Courier about her experiences and her future. Kennedy started on the court Dec. 7, 2012 and is enthusiastic about serving out a two-year unexpired term that ends Dec. 31, 2014.
"It is the greatest thing I've ever done," she said.
Kennedy said she expects the economic boom in the oil and gas industry to eventually lead to property rights cases heard by the court, and noted it isn't the justices role to advance a cause.
"My job is to apply the law as it's written through your voice and your representatives, and if they go too far and it's unconstitutional, deem it unconstitutional on a very limited basis," she said.
She said she plans to run for a full six-year term next year.
Kennedy, a Republican, said she did not see political parties giving up partisan primaries in judicial elections, but is okay with no party labels on judicial candidates in the general election. She said she does not see Ohio changing that.
"I'm OK with that because I'm not moving a political ideology," she said.
Record-Courier reporter Kyle McDonald contributed to this story.
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