• Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

Contributed

Justice Melody Stewart, the First African-American woman elected to the Ohio Supreme Court, Judge Marilyn Zayas, the first Latina elected to an Ohio Court of Appeals, and all judges of color serving on an Ohio Court of Appeals, were among the speakers at the second annual statewide “Bridge to the Bench” event on Friday, February 11, 2022.

“Bridge to the Bench” is the brainchild of Hamilton County’s Judge Marilyn Zayas and was created to provide students of color a meaningful opportunity to engage with judges of color. 

The event was a collaboration of the Ohio Black Judge’s Association, the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the Latino Law Students Association (LLSA), and the Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association (APILSA).  Nearly seventy law students throughout Ohio registered to participate. 

Twelve judges of color serving throughout Ohio participated in the event: Justice Melody Stewart, Ohio Supreme Court; Judge Marilyn Zayas, Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals; Judge Terri Jamison, Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals; Judge Laurel Beatty Blunt, Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals; Judge Myron C. Duhart, Sixth District Court of Appeals; Judge Emanuella D. Groves, Eighth District Court of Appeals; Judge Anita Laster Mays, Eighth District Court of Appeals; Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas; Judge Adolfo Tornichio, Greene County Court of Common Pleas; Judge Alison Hatheway, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas; Judge Alan C. Triggs, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas; Judge Janaya Trotter-Bratton, Hamilton County Municipal Court.

The organizing committee was led by Janelle Thompson, BLSA at University of Cincinnati, Nicole Vega, BLSA and LLSA at University of Dayton, Carlos Schemmel, LLSA at University of Cincinnati, and Celina Bontigao, APILSA at Ohio State University.

Nicole Vega exclaimed, “I am honored to have been in a room with so many influential judges of color.  During my time in law school, I have felt like the minority.  Attending this event left me inspired.  It’s great to see that people on the bench reflect the diversity present in our community.”  Janelle Thompson shared, “The Bridge to the Bench event was a great reminder of why I am working so hard in law school.  No matter what area of the law I end up practicing in, it is important to see myself represented in the legal field.  Meeting so many Black judges and judges of color gives me the motivation to graduate and to impact my community for the better.”

Judge Zayas shared that although people of color make up 19% of Ohio’s population, less than 10% of appellate court judges are from a minority group.  She hopes that events like this will encourage all students to “Dream Big.”

We are confident that the future is well placed in our students’ hands!