After 16 years on the state's top bench, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton retired from the Ohio Supreme Court at the end of 2012 so as to pursue more fully criminal justice reforms with a particular emphasis on veterans who become involved with the justice system. She established the VETERANS IN THE COURTS INITIATIVE in 2009.
POMEROY, OHIO— Meigs County Sheriff’s Office Major Scott Trussell was recently presented with the Evelyn Lundberg Stratton Champion of the Year Award.
Major Trussell received the award at the 2019 CIT Advanced Training in Columbus, Ohio. Commander Joe Browning, from Pickaway-Ross CTC, nominated Major Trussell for this award.
According to Ruth Simera, Director Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence Northeast Ohio Medical University, “Major Trussell has been a mainstay in Meigs and surrounding counties for CIT for some time.”
This annual award is an award that recognizes law enforcement officers who de-escalate crisis and handle incidents involving persons with mental illness. The CIT training helps officers learn to defuse potentially dangerous situations without necessarily making an arrest. The goal is to divert a person in crisis to an appropriate mental health service rather than resorting to physical force or arrest.
Evelyn Lundberg Stratton formerly served 16 years on the Ohio Supreme Court and is a leader on veteran justice issues, joined Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio as an advisor on veterans’ courts and other justice and mental health issues involving veterans.
Stratton was an early advocate for CIT training and mental health courts. Stratton notes that the number of CIT-trained law enforcement personnel statewide has gone from 100 officers 20 years ago to more than 12,000 now. There are now CIT-trained officers in all 88 counties in Ohio.
Information provided by the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office.
COLUMBUS — Two Mount Vernon officers were recognized for their services at the Ohio Bailiffs & Court Officers Association (OBACOA) Fall training Oct. 24 at the Ohio Supreme Court.
Mount Vernon Municipal Court Security Officer Tom Brown received the highest award — the Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton Award — for his leadership in developing effective court security systems at the municipal court and throughout the state of Ohio.
David Lashley, Bailiff and Director of Court Security for Knox County Common Pleas Court, was awarded a Certificate of Special Recognition for his contributions to the OBACOA’s training curriculum.
At the Ohio Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) State Conference in Columbus on Oct. 18, the Wayne-Holmes CIT Program was awarded the CIT Program of the Year.
Helen Walkerly, program coordinator, and Jerome Fatzinger of the Wooster Police Department were jointly recognized for exhibiting a community partnership in building the program in a largely rural area of the state.
Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, former justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, presented the awards at the CIT Advanced Training Conference at the Ohio Highway Patrol Training Academy in Columbus. The event was sponsored by NAMI Ohio and the Ohio
Evelyn Lundberg Stratton
Criminal Justice Coordinating Center at the Northeast Ohio Medical University. Awards were made to individuals and organizations statewide for outstanding Crisis Intervention Team service to law enforcement.
CIT training is aimed at teaching law enforcement personnel on how to better deal with people with mental illness, especially those in crisis.
The 40-hour training is sponsored locally by the Mental Health and Recovery Board, the Commercial and Savings Bank, NAMI Ohio and NAMI Wayne-Holmes Counties.
The training helps officers learn to defuse potentially dangerous situations without necessarily making an arrest. The goal is to divert a person in crisis to an appropriate mental health service rather than resorting to physical force or arrest.
This year’s CIT training begins on Oct. 28. Twenty seven officers from law enforcement agencies in both Wayne and Holmes Counties will complete the 40-hour training and become certified as a CIT officer on Nov. 1.
Millions in grant funding now available for substance use, mental health court programs in Ohio
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that Ohio is now offering $7.5 million in grant funding to support the expansion of specialized court programs that focus on recovery from substance use or mental health disorders.
Governor DeWine proposed the grants in March as part of his RecoveryOhio initiative.
(Ohio Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton is a member of RecoveryOhio.)
Specialized court dockets give judges the flexibility to place defendants with mental health or substance use disorders into treatment rather than sentencing them to jail.
“When someone struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder commits a crime, sending them to jail won’t get them the treatment they need,” Governor DeWine said. “This funding will help specialty courts in Ohio direct those arrested for non-violent crimes toward recovery.”
“Judges replace harsh sentences with mandatory treatment to those who are addicted, all the while holding them accountable,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said. “They care about recovery, and their compassion shows. They care about the person who’s struggling, the families affected and the community.”
The grants will be awarded through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and are funded through Ohio’s 2020-2021 operating budget. Any court that is not currently receiving specialized docket or drug court grant funding can apply.
“We appreciate the partnerships between the courts and our treatment agencies which provide accountability, improve health and safety and reduce commitments to the state correctional system,” said Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “This funding creates opportunities for new specialized dockets and helps sustain those that are already existing.”
The grant funding can be used for payroll costs, clinical services provided by state-certified addiction and/or mental health providers, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) medications, urinalysis and recovery supports.
Applications will be accepted in two categories:
• Specialty courts receiving final certification after July 1, 2019, and not previously certified; and
• Specialty courts that received final certification before July 1, 2019, or operational specialized dockets seeking re-certification.
Applications will be accepted until all available funds have been awarded, but questions must be received via email to email@example.com no later than Nov. 14, 2019.
More information on the grant, including application documents, is available on the OhioMHAS website.
Kenneth Collins, Lorain County Community College (LCCC) director of campus security, was named as Ohio Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Administrator of the Year at the annual Ohio CIT Conference at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Training Academy in Columbus Oct. 18.
Also, Elyria Police Officer Patrick Jama was named the CIT Officer of the Year, according to a news release.
Jama is one of the officers from the police department that regularly provides a presence on the LCCC campus in coordination with the Campus Security office.
Collins has been with LCCC’s Campus Security office for 20 years and director of Campus Security since 2017, the release said.
As director he oversees the safety and security of the campus community.
The Crisis Intervention Team program is a community partnership of law enforcement, mental health and addiction professionals, individuals who live with mental illness and/or addiction disorders, their families and other advocates, according to the release.
It is an innovative first-responder model of police-based crisis intervention training to help persons with mental disorders and/or addictions access medical treatment rather than place them in the criminal justice system due to illness related behaviors.
It also promotes officer safety and the safety of the individual in crisis, the release said.
“The C.I.T. program is essential to the relationship between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” Collins said. “ C.I.T. is critical to the mission of Lorain County Community College’s Campus Security which is to serve and protect all of our faculty, staff, and students.”
At the ceremony, retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton presented Collins and Jama with their awards, according to the release.
“Director Collins and Officer Jama have been heroes to those citizens of Ohio who live everyday with mental illness,” said Terry Russell, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Issues Ohio.
CIT is a program that provides the foundation necessary to promote community and statewide solutions to assist individuals with a mental illness and/or addictions, the release said.
The CIT Model reduces both stigma and the need for further involvement with the criminal justice system.
CIT provides a forum for effective problem solving regarding the interaction between the criminal justice and mental health care system and creates the context for sustainable change, according to the release.
The Ohio CIT Administrator of the Year Award is given to law enforcement leadership who promote CIT and ensures support for their local CIT Team, CIT core elements, practices and partnerships.
The Ohio CIT Officer of the Year award is given to individual CIT Officers who have demonstrated effectiveness in the field utilizing CIT skills and partnerships, the release said.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine attending a meeting of the Ohio Attorney General’s Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness, October 2, 2019
The administration will soon undertake a comprehensive overview of the state’s mental health system to devise short- and long-term goals, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday at a meeting of the mental health task force he formed while serving as attorney general.
Wednesday’s meeting of the Attorney General’s Criminal Justice and Mental Health Force marked an official transfer of leadership to Attorney General Dave Yost, who said he wants to continue the work of the group co-founded by DeWine and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost
Ohio Justice (Ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Co-Chair of the Ohio Attorney General’s Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness.
Yost told attendees he started to think more deeply about mental health and criminal justice early in his career as a county prosecutor, sharing the story of how an assistant prosecutor had come to him to talk about an encounter between the police and his son, who had has autism. The boy did not seem to understand the situation and become agitated, and the police officer responded by asserting control with his “command voice” and “physical presence.” The encounter ended with an arrest and “a waste of an overnight jail bed for that young man, who, the last place he needed to be was in jail.”
The subsequent “journey of discovery” he undertook “radically changed my ideas about individual responsibility and what mental illness involves and what we ought to expect of society,” Yost said.
“I began to realize many of our institutions are not well adapted to deal with the reality of those who are sick. There’s a tremendous disconnect between how we view physical health, the resources, the organizations we bring to that, and mental health … and yet mental health is at least as important as physical health,” he said.
Yost also praised the record of DeWine and Stratton on the issues.
“They truly have used their political capital and leadership to make a difference,” Yost said.
DeWine said an official announcement of the details and process for his mental health study is weeks away, but said he wanted a chance to personally inform the task force members who worked with him on the issue for the past several years. His chief adviser, Ann O’Donnell, a veteran of his staff since he served in Congress, will be coordinating the effort, he said. He said he’s seeking a more “holistic” review than he was able to undertake as attorney general.
“This is consistent with a number of things we have done in the administration, a number of things I did as attorney general, and that is to put a working group together to kind of take a take a big look at some of our systems. We’ve done that with parole, for example, we’ve done this in a number of different areas. It’s just time. People in the mental health community have urged me to do this and have said we need to take a real look at how this system, or what we call a system, is working, and is it in fact working for the individuals who are involved? Is it also working for their families?” DeWine said.
“Looking back, we went through de-institutionalization. This is not in any way to say we’re going to go back, but the question is, how do we go forward? A lot of promises were made at that time to families, a lot of promises were made to individuals who have mental health issues. Probably a good time to look a see how we all have done in keeping those promises, whether it has worked as well as it was outlined, whether the money has been there to help the people who need the help. It’s just time to take a good hard look, and we intend to do that,” he said.
“That’s ultimately the goal: are we treating individuals who have mental health challenges in the most appropriate way? Are we using the tools that we have to help them and assist them and to assist their families? A real kind of holistic point of view. I always like to look at things from the point of view of, where do we want to go in the next couple years? Where do we want to go in the next five years? But where really should we be in 20 years?” he said.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on October 2, 2019. Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc. http://bit.ly/2AHlN8A
The first president – and driving force behind OLHO – is Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. The organization voted to create the position of president emeritus in recognition of her significant contributions to the success of the organization and to Ohio’s Veteran community.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s a new way to patrol and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says it’s been a problem for far too long.
“I would suggest since the 1950s, when this problem really started with the closure of mental health hospitals,” Sgt. Scott Blacker said.
Sgt. Blacker is with the Community Intervention and Diversion unit, or CID. He says in the last 10 years, the sheriff’s office has seen an excessively high number of people in jail who struggle with mental illness.
“But when you look at that, is that the appropriate place to house somebody who’s got mental issues?” Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said.
Baldwin says these inmates were being locked up for crimes like public indecency, trespassing and crimes of survival like stealing food to eat. Before, Baldwin says it was quick and easy to put them in cuffs. Now, a new initiative is changing that mindset.
“What we’re finding is it’s very, very successful,” Baldwin said.
Since January, the CID unit, partnering with ADAMH and Netcare, has responded to 438 calls. Shawn Daniels is one of the Netcare mobile crisis clinicians.
“There are runs that we’ve been on and there are clients who have been critically ill,” she said. “They were psychotic.”
Daniels and Deputy Brent McKitrick see the benefit of keeping people out of jail and getting them to mental health treatments.
“It’s a great program for the community and for people who might be suffering from these problems,” McKitrick said.
And this program is saving taxpayers quite a bit of money.
Sgt. Blacker says if those 438 people had spent a minimum of three days in jail, that would have cost about $30,000. Sheriff Baldwin says out of a 2,000 daily population of inmates, an average of 719 have mental health issues.
“If we only diverted a fourth of them, we should save about a quarter-million dollars a month,” Baldwin said.
Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton says this program is worth it. She helped start the Stepping Up initiative in Ohio and says this type of program works.
“It’s not all that you have to have new money,” she said. “You just stop wasting money with horrible outcomes.”
Currently, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has four deputies on CID who are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sgt. Blacker says he hopes to soon have a couple of CID deputies on second shift, as well.
In response to the Aug. 4 mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine announced a series of plans to address gun violence and mental health issues in the state. Among the proposals was one that could overhaul the treatment of people with mental illness who are accused of nonviolent misdemeanors.
News reports have suggested that the Ohio shooter, Connor Betts, may have struggled with untreated mental illness. “We must have increased access for the citizens of Ohio to our state psychiatric hospitals,” DeWine said at a press conference. The hospitals are often filled to capacity with people who do not need to be there, DeWine said, leaving little room for people who might pose a danger to their communities.
The week before the shooting, 79 percent of the roughly 1,200 adults in the hospitals were court-ordered to be there, many until their competency is restored for trial, DeWine said. According to the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, almost a quarter of those people were facing nonviolent, misdemeanor charges.
“We have a problem in this state,” DeWine said during the press conference. “We have a problem with people who are not violent who have been sent there by a court who could be sent someplace else and these individuals are occupying space that we urgently need today.”
People ordered to competency restoration in a psychiatric hospital for misdemeanor charges in Ohio can spend up to 60 days in the institution, during which time they are supposed to learn how the court process works and get a basic level of treatment to allow them to return to court. But mental health experts told The Appeal that these individuals are often getting little to no effective treatment and that they could be better served in outpatient community programs.
Terry Russell, executive director of the O(NAMI) Ohio, said his organization has been working with the Ohio Department of Mental Health for over two years to change the way the state handles people undergoing competency restoration. Under the current system, he said, the state is using hospitals to hold people for weeks or months while offering limited treatment. Many of these defendants are homeless or housing unstable and have been convicted of crimes of convenience, like theft and public urination, that are often later dismissed in court, Russell said, sometimes because the restoration process itself is considered “time served.”
“What we’re doing is using these very expensive—a thousand dollars a day—state hospitals for people to go and be restored, which does not allow or require treatment,” he said. “It is so bad.”
One solution is to simply arrest fewer people who commit low-level crimes, advocates say. Tristia Bauman, a senior attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said criminalizing homelessness is a “losing strategy” because it doesn’t help people get off the streets and it costs taxpayers money.
“We definitely think that cities and government at any level should not be criminalizing poor people for surviving in public space when they have nowhere other than public space in which to live,” she said. “It doesn’t help to reduce homelessness and it doesn’t meet any of the purported policy goals behind those laws.”
Because of the lack of space in psychiatric hospitals and limited resources for evaluations, people who are arrested also often languish in the court system before their 60 days can begin. Dustin McKee, policy director at NAMI Ohio, described one woman in her 20s who was arrested for disorderly conduct against a Franklin County police officer on the steps of a psychiatric facility, where her mother was trying to take her for help. A judge ordered her to be evaluated for competence to stand trial, but McKee said she had to spend weeks in the jail waiting until someone was available to evaluate her and then until there was a bed at the hospital. When she was eventually discharged from the hospital and returned to court, her charge was dismissed, he said.
John Tilley, a forensic psychologist who co-owns a company that contracts with a number of Ohio court systems to conduct competency evaluations, disputed the idea that people detained for competency restoration are getting absolutely no treatment. But he said the level of treatment they can be given in 60 days is inadequate and agreed that community-based alternatives would be much more effective.
“There are too many defendants in the hospital for competency restoration that don’t need to be there,” he said.
EVelyn Stratton, a former Ohio Supreme Court justice who now focuses on criminal justice and mental health issues, has worked with Russell and other experts, government officials, and attorneys on a task force charged with improving the state’s competency restoration process. “Our goal is to try to get [arrestees with mental illness] into the least restrictive environment,” she said.
The group has worked with DeWine and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to consider outpatient treatment programs for people who don’t need constant attention and potentially creating new, long-term residential treatment centers for people who need more intensive treatment.
Russell said the goal should be setting people up to leave a program successfully. “I don’t want a new state hospital, but [we should] have some residential facilities where people could stay for 90 days and work on their illness and have an exit discharge plan in place where they have a place to go,” Russell said. “We need an array of residential treatment facilities and rehab facilities.”
For individuals who commit misdemeanors who are “very ill” and need to remain in a psychiatric hospital, Russell said they should be allowed more intensive treatment.
“They should be sent there for commitment as a danger to themselves and others and be treated for whatever length of time it takes to make them competent again,” he said.
Tilley said there also needs to be a shift in funding so that private companies like his are motivated to set up outpatient restoration programs. Currently, these companies are only paid to do competency evaluations.
Experts said they are encouraged by the consensus among key players that something needs to change. And although they would have preferred that changes were enacted before a man was able to obtain a gun and kill nine people, they are glad to see things shifting now.
“It’s just so unfortunate that it takes these types of terrible, terrible tragedies to make things move,” Russell said. “But they’re moving.”
Michael Woody, CIT Coordinator for Ohio, former CIT international president, law enforcement liaison for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence, credited with starting first CIT program in Ohio
Each year there are an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses admitted to U.S. jails, with almost three-quarters having co-occurring substance use disorders.
The toll incarceration takes on these individuals and their families, as well as the costs assumed by taxpayers, is staggering. Jails have become de facto in-patient psychiatric facilities across the nation with little impact on public safety. Ohio is no exception, with as many as 30 percent or more of the individuals in jail having mental illnesses.
Wood County has joined over 45 other Ohio counties in Stepping Up, a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.
The kick-off will be held at Sam B’s Restaurant, 163 S. Main St., on June 20 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
To RSVP or for more information, contact the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board by calling 419-352-8475 or email firstname.lastname@example.org no later than June 17.
The initiative was launched in May 2015 by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, with support from the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, to help people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders safely stay out of jails and on a path to recovery.
An initial meeting of all county leadership — commissioners, judges, law enforcement, treatment community and hospitals — will feature the assistance and resources Stepping Up can offer and how to reverse this cycle of jails being the de facto hospital for those better cared for and treated in the community.
The Ohio effort is privately funded by Peg’s Foundation. To make this effort a success, Peg’s Foundation has retained retired Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton to serve as project director and Melissa Knopp, esquire, to serve as project manager to lead the Ohio efforts.
COLUMBUS, Ohio –Defendants could escape the death penalty if they suffer from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and delusional disorder during the time of the crime, under a bill passed Wednesday in the Ohio House.
Ohio criminal law allows people to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. People can also be found incompetent to stand trial. HB 136 would apply when a person is too impaired to “exercise rational judgment” to conform to the law or appreciate the nature, consequences or wrongness of their conduct.
People can receive death sentences in Ohio if they’re convicted of aggravated murder.
Under HB 136, if a defendant’s “serious mental illness” at the time of the aggravated murder is challenged, the court can order an evaluation. If the person is ultimately found guilty of aggravated murder, they would be ineligible for the death penalty, assuming the evaluation showed they were seriously mentally ill during the crime.
Instead, the person would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer, a Republican from Tuscarawas County and an attorney, is sponsoring the bill. He said that the legislation is the result of a 2014 task force that reviewed the state’s administration of the death penalty. He said HB 136 was drafted in consultation with former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton.
Two U.S. Supreme Court cases found that juveniles and impaired people could be not executed due to “diminished mental capacity.” Hillyer said that serious mental illnesses diminish people’s capacity.
Hillyer said that Ohio law has a similar exception of the death penalty for juveniles and developmentally disabled people.
“This bill isn’t about guilt or innocence,” he said. “You can still be found guilty of the capital offense of aggravated murder.”
The bill is retroactive. People on death row can seek an evaluation about their mental health and have their sentence reduced to life without parole. It’s not immediately clear how much that will cost the state. Capital cases exceed the cost of life imprisonment cases of up to $1 million to $3 million per case, due to legal appeals required before the state executes someone. But a legislative fiscal analysis also evaluations will cost public defenders, county prosecutors and possibly the county sheriffs more money in paperwork and court motions.
There are 142 people on death row in Ohio.
The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association opposed the bill for the past four years as overly broad. People with mental illness or developmental disabilities can already avoid the death penalty, and HB 136 is just for people “whose mental illness is so weak that they were unable to create reasonable doubt in the mind of even one single juror” that they were not guilty by reason of insanity, said the organization’s Executive Eirector Louis Tobin.
Ohio executions are on hold for now, as Gov. Mike DeWine and officials in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction search for a new means to administer the death penalty. A federal magistrate in January ruled the old method of a three-drug cocktail was unconstitutional.
HB 136 now heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
Justice Patrick F. Fischer: Hello. Joining me today is retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. Welcome.
Former Justice Stratton: Thank you.
Justice Fischer: You were appointed in 1996 and you retired at the end of 2012? Why didn’t you run again?
Justice Stratton: I did three statewide races and two local races. I didn’t think I had it in me to do a fourth race. I had begun working on issues with mental health and criminal justice that really became my passion. I decided there’s a lot of people that want my job, but not a lot of people that want to work in this area. So it’s time to make a move.
Justice Fischer: So what are you doing these days?
Justice Stratton: I have kind of two diverse lives. I didn’t intend to practice law at all when I left. But some friends came calling and then some other friends, and then I met with the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease LLP. I vetted them. Nobody left the firm. Secretaries didn’t leave the firm. They really cared about their people. It was a good atmosphere to work in and so I started just part-time. I don’t give them very many hours because that’s not why I left the bench. I’m basically an appellate coach. I try to make good lawyers better and I try to tell them how to write briefs that I wanted to read and argue cases I wanted to hear. So it’s been really fun to do that, but the rest of my work is around criminal justice, mental illness, veterans, and youth.
Justice Fischer: In fact, you do so much appellate work. You’re one of the best public lawyers in America.
Justice Stratton: Yes. I have very much behind the scenes. I’m not in the public eye at all.
Justice Fischer: Well, the other thing I found out from your time at Vorys (law firm) is you’re a member of their autonomous vehicle working group. Is that right?
Justice Stratton: That is actually something that I pushed for. My first major before I went to law school was nuclear physics. It’s a long story how I got to law. But anyhow, I have had the love of science fiction for all my life. I almost exclusively read that for pleasure and I’ve been fascinated by these issues. And then I started reading about it and autonomous vehicles are the wave of the future. Drones are here now. They’re being used everywhere in field inspections and bridge inspections. My son, who serves search warrants, and my son, who is a movie director, use them now instead of helicopters. So I went to the firm about a year and a half ago, and said, “We really need to get ahead of the curve. We need to develop a practice in this.” Law firms are not very entrepreneurial. It took a little while, but finally they got the fever and they put together an autonomous drones and autonomous vehicle drones section. We went out to the testing site over at Honda and I got to ride in one of those cars that automatically stops. When you don’t break yourself, it’s fascinating. So we’re really trying to develop that area. But it’s absolutely not related to anything else I do in my life, except that I think it is fun.
Justice Fischer: It was interesting that you would work on that area because I hadn’t heard of any law firm working on that area. Now, you were trial judge before the Supreme Court?
Justice Stratton: I was one of the very first women to try civil lawsuits. I was there, I think, (as) the first woman to try a civil lawsuit pregnant. (It was a) very interesting experience. I used it to my full advantage.
Justice Fischer: Did you win?
Justice Stratton: Oh sir, your honor, I really need to take a little break. I’m feeling faint. He was going way too long on the other side. Yes, shameless.
Justice Fischer: OK. You ever miss being on the Court?
Justice Stratton: No, I don’t. When I left the trial bench, I didn’t miss it. When I left the Supreme Court, I didn’t miss it. I had done that 16 years. As you know, it’s five feet of briefs every two weeks. If you get an extra week, you get an extra foot at that pile. I really became so passionate and interested in the mental health work. I thought it’s time for somebody else to do this job. I want to pursue that.
Justice Fischer: Let’s go back a little bit before trial or the Supreme Court. (You were) born in Thailand?
Justice Stratton: Yes.
Justice Fischer: (You) spent your childhood in South Vietnam and Malaysia. Missionary parents. What was it like? Do you remember anything about Vietnam during that time?
Justice Stratton: Very much so. I mean, I was there until the eighth grade. To me, it was my normal life. I didn’t know any different. But when I was born in Bangkok, it was very primitive in the little village we lived, which was eight hours away by train. So my mom came down by train a couple of days before just to have a good hospital in Bangkok that the Seventh Day Adventists ran. It’s a good thing she did because I was a breech (birth) and I had to be (delivered by) C-section. I would not be here if we had stayed in the little village. My dad came down by train the day before and fortunately was able to be there. But in those days, we didn’t have insurance. They actually wanted you to pay your bill before you left the hospital. And my parents, being missionaries, didn’t have much money. So, my dad sold a tape recorder that we had for the equivalent of 50 bucks and got me out of the hospital. So, I like to say that my life was worth 50 bucks at the time. So, I lived there for six years in that little village called Nong Kai. When we were six years old, we all were required to go to a mission-run boarding school which was at that time in South Vietnam. Our parents were not permitted to home school. So for nine months out of each year, I was at a mission-run boarding school with kids from other countries. My roommate was a Vietnamese kid, another was an Indonesian kid. We (were) all actually Americans. But we all had the culture that we were born and raised and so (it) was a very interesting mix. The Vietnam War became way too serious. The school had to evacuate. My dad had actually pulled me out the year before because I had braces and there was nowhere in Vietnam to (get treatment). So I lived with the mission family. When the school was evacuated and my dad was in charge, I joined up with the school in Bangkok for a year. But it was very primitive. We had taken over a thing called the American Club. We had little tiny rooms so they built triple decker bunks that could fit six of us in a room. They had lead shelters over the sidewalks. We went to school in our rubber shoes because of the flooding. Now you see where my school-funding vote may be going. But we had totally excellent, dedicated teachers who had come from America. So then, they moved the school to Malaysia because it was just too bad an environment in Bangkok. And we spent the last three years in the mountains of Malaysia in a beautiful setting for our school.
Justice Fischer: Do you think that experience affected you in any way when you’re on the Supreme Court?
Justice Stratton: Oh, absolutely. I grew up in countries that didn’t have freedom of press, freedom of religion, or democracy. (These are) things that we just so take for granted. I knew (they) were so precious. So, it helped me in my balancing act when we had this right versus that right, or this challenge versus that challenge. To have that experience and to say you know the things that make this country great are really important to keep strong. For example, our freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech (are important). Because once those things start eroding, then you get into the dictatorships that I grew up in.
Justice Fischer: You get back to the United States, you’re 18 years old, in college. Why did you go to law school?
Justice Stratton: It’s a funny story. As I said, I start off in nuclear physics. They dropped the program the year I started and it was an engineering college. It did not have other majors and I decided I didn’t want just physics or chemistry. Then, I realized I had this great heritage growing up overseas. So I made a 180-degree turn. I was going to go into the United Nations work and embassy work, the third-culture kid stuff. So I transferred to University of Florida and decided I wanted to major in international relations. Well, I met my former husband right before I transferred and his electrical engineering major would transfer to University of Florida. Well, along the way he was in a college, which was 90 percent men, and they said you shouldn’t be following her around. So he said if you want to marry me, you have to come back to Texas and go back to the school. It only had a two-person history department. But that was the only (school) my credits would transfer to. So I chose love over career and I moved back. Then (I thought) if he’s not going to follow me to Florida, he’s not following me to Thailand or overseas. So what do I do? I played the piano for a quartet that the school sponsored that tried to recruit kids to sing in churches and schools and stuff. My chaperone said, “You like to write and you like to act. Why don’t you become a lawyer?”
Justice Fischer: Act?
Justice Stratton: No save-the-world stuff. And somewhere concurrent because I still have this very religious side, (this) came the thought I want to be a judge. Now, I have no idea what a judge did. I never saw Perry Mason because we didn’t have TV until my last year of school. I saw one American show at night. I never saw a judge or a lawyer in Thailand that I was aware of, but it just seemed like something I should do with my life. So on the day I went to law school, I (said I) want to be a judge.
Justice Fischer: Wow. Just as I told you before, it was just the opposite (for me). How did you end up at Ohio State then?
Justice Stratton: Well, we were going to this college in Texas, but he was from Ohio. It was a private college and once he got married, his parents said, “you’re on your own,” which they should. We were financially unable to pay. So we moved back (to Ohio) and I had actually ended up going to Akron to finish my undergrad. Akron would accept you as a resident, if you’re married to one. OSU would not. So, then we moved down here because my first husband got a job at WTVN radio. He was in the radio business. So I went to law school down here because of that.
Justice Fischer: Did you enjoy law school?
Justice Stratton: I did.
Justice Fischer: Some do and some don’t.
Justice Stratton: I was married. So, I didn’t take it quite maybe as seriously as some who have no other life, which a lot of the law students did. But it was a reordering. I mean, I was a straight-A student in college. But when I got to law school, my first grade was 34 in contracts. I asked 34 out of 40? No, it’s 34 out of 100. I thought, what?! So you realize you’re with every other “A” student. So, I was not top of my class, but neither did I want law school to be my entire life. But I did ok.
Justice Fischer: Then what?
Justice Stratton: Then I couldn’t get a job. Nobody was hiring women at the time. I can tell you a whole lot of stories, but that is for another time and place. But I couldn’t get a job. I got a job as a law clerk. They couldn’t decide to hire me as an attorney. I finally got a job with a firm that did take a chance and hired me as an attorney, but then they couldn’t make me a partner. And things like that went on and, finally, I just tried never to burn bridges. I just tried to do the best I could. The very first firm I worked at several of the lawyers had left. They were doing the business litigation part and they wanted a new partner. And so six years later, they called me up out of the blue. It was at my firm that I was with one partner that didn’t want a woman. And so the whole thing was a big mess. They called me up and said, “We don’t know how to approach you on this, but are you interested in maybe talking about coming and joining us?” If I’d burn that bridge, maybe I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. So, I joined my new firm, which was Wesp, Osterkamp, and Stratton. They had no issues with discrimination anymore. I loved it and I was there until I ran for judge.
Justice Fischer: How long between passing the bar and running for judge?
Justice Stratton: I was in practice nine years. Now I’m a long-term planner. So I had a five-, 10-, 15-, 20-year goal. In 20 years, I wanted to be a judge. All the judges I knew were in their 50s and 60s. But because I was doing all these things in my methodical planning way to get there, I ended up getting a chance to run for judge. I ran against an incumbent. I wasn’t appointed, I ran. One woman and five men (were) on the Republican ticket.
Justice Fischer: In the primary?
Justice Stratton: No, it was in the general. I took out the incumbent and became a judge.
Justice Fischer: That’s hard to do, but I’ve done it and it’s not fun.
Justice Stratton: Well, I was 34. I was the youngest by 10 years. (I was) the only one with small children and the only woman. Yet, I had another whole series of interesting experiences.
Justice Fischer: OK, so you are a seven-year trial judge. Why run for the Supreme Court?
Justice Stratton: I didn’t plan to. I was going to the federal court. That was my next five-year game plan, 10-year game plan. You are appointed. You get more money. You don’t have to run again. So, I was headed in that direction in time to put everything in place for that. I got a call out of the blue that Justice Craig Wright was retiring and would I consider an appointment to that spot? I was like, Ok, I just met my second husband. I had not married him yet. My first husband left me six months after I was elected. So it’s like Pavlov’s response. Run for office, get elected, lose husband. I haven’t even married this guy yet. What do I do? I mean, I’ve just won election for a second time. I have a six-year term ahead of me, but I thought if you’re appointed, even though I was appointed in March and I had to run in November, I had not planned that route. I thought, wow, this seems like what the good Lord wants me to do. So I took a chance. I talked to my now-husband, I got married to him in September, and he said, “Go for it, absolutely. I’ll be behind you.” And he had never been married so he had no idea that a marriage consisted of your wife meeting some stranger driving around the counties for a day and coming home at midnight for a year and a half. And because he had no expectations, it ended up working out alright. But yeah. So I didn’t plan that route.
Justice Fischer: So you literally got married in the middle of the campaign?
Justice Stratton: Well, right before the campaign. But all the interviewing and stuff had already happened.
Justice Fischer: Well, share with us some of your best memories on the Court.
Justice Stratton: First of all, I had wonderful colleagues as you know and you get to have wonderful friendships. But (it was) also the campaigning process. I, frankly, was a person that loved campaigning because I love people. And I made so many friends and what I ended up doing is making the campaign. Well, you know as a justice, you’re boring as a campaigner. I can’t talk about a thing. I can’t give you my opinion on that or I won’t give you my opinion. With the mental health and criminal justice work, I could talk about it because it was the administration of justice, which you’re allowed to do. So every campaign speech was about that. Every campaign paid speech (was) about training police officers called crisis intervention teams. Because of that and because you give hundreds of speeches, you have a chance to really push the agenda. And that was really wonderful. And then I really enjoyed the legal process. I’ve seen other justices you’ve interviewed talk about this too. But when you’re a trial judge, you’re making decisions really quick and occasionally get appealed. But most of the time you don’t. And you have nobody else to bounce it off on most of time. On the Supreme Court, you have the luxury to think about it and hear other people’s opinions, and sometimes somebody will say something (such as), “Oh I never thought of that angle. And that’s really right.” Then, sometimes when you’re in the minority and you’re so frustrated because you can’t get that fourth vote for your viewpoint. So I really enjoyed that give-and-take process.
Justice Fischer: I have to say what I’ve learned, and you tell me if you believe this, is that that the time you have to think is so different than in practice.
Justice Stratton: Oh my God, yes.
Justice Fischer: Practitioners. I mean, when I was a practitioner, my client wanted to know right then. Do you think that makes us too slow in the judicial system, in terms of the modern way of everything has be done today?
Justice Stratton: I think that most judges should think faster and get their opinions out sooner because I think that there is way too much delay. It’s valuable to have the time to think, but when I was a trial judge, I ruled from the bench. I would go back (and) I would say, “OK, I’ll take it under advisement.” I go back and sit in my office just like a juror, and I would consider my decision. Then, I would go out on the bench the same day and give my opinion. Very few judges do that. But lawyers loved it because they got their opinion right away. It came from the judge rather than having to explain to your client why the judge ruled against him, and their parties are there. They can clear up any (issues) or when they say, “Your honor, you left this point out.” That’s how I practiced when I was a judge, and I was pretty prompt on getting my opinions out when I was on the bench.
Justice Fischer: Now, during your tenure there were four cases known as DeRolph and today still on the campaign circuit, we still get asked about DeRolph. Tell me your feelings about that.
Justice Stratton:DeRolph was an interesting mix that I think a lot of people don’t really understand. They all talk about it being about school funding. Well, school funding is not something that we, as judges, have the right to tell the legislature how to do. Do you take the funding from the program for pregnant women? Do you take the funding from the roads? It’s a balancing act. But when I looked at all of the evidence, 90 percent of the evidence we had was all about buildings and supplies. The teachers were pretty well paid compared to the national average. There was no complaints about the teacher pay. So the allocations that the schools made was to keep the teachers happy, keep them funded, probably because they had unions to deal with, and the buildings were just in disarray. The decisions that we made ended up in the school funding for the buildings project and everywhere I went when I started campaigning again after that you saw beautiful new buildings. So in my opinion what the case really focused on got fixed. The fundamental issue of how you fund them to me is not an issue a court should decide. It’s a policy decision because it involves so many factors to look at.
Justice Fischer: Now, on a somewhat serious, but also interesting note, tell me the story of Violet Moon.
Justice Stratton: My parents went out to Thailand in 1950. Now, my dad was a farmer from Minnesota, but he was one of five brothers that volunteered. He was one of the five that had to go to World War II. He went to World War II, he was stationed in New Hebrides Islands, he was a bomb demolition expert, and he became a Christian. He got to know some missionaries. So, he went to become a missionary. When he came back after the war, he went to a bible college in New York. That was a Christian and Missionary Alliance Bible College. My mother was raised in Long Island. She was very involved in the Salvation Army as a child and she worked in a Grumman air factory making airplane parts during the war, and then she decided she wanted to go to bible college. She was offered a supervisor position after the war, but she decided she wanted to follow her heart. So, they met at college and our mission required them to serve two years as pastor under the theory if you didn’t make it as a pastor, you weren’t going to make it as a missionary. So they sent them to a church in Prattville, Alabama. My dad made $50 a week.
Justice Fischer: It’s a lot different than Minnesota.
Justice Stratton: Oh my God, there was a culture shock for them. But the mission said, you had to raise $1,000 for your passage to Thailand, which was by boat then. That’s a lot of money on $50 so my mom just believed in prayer. She started praying, and one day a woman from Toledo, Ohio, sent her a check for $1,000. She had picked her from a list of candidates that their church had sent them from Canada to the mission field. She sent my parents this check for a $1,000, which gave them their passage to Thailand. They had no idea that their daughter would come back to Ohio. So that’s how they got to Thailand. So when I came back to America, eventually I ended up in Ohio, and went to the First Christian Missionary Alliance Church here in Ohio on Henderson Road. I did a lot of wills and estate planning for people in my church. I had a little lady named Ethel Morris that needed a will. So I did it for her and then she came in one day and she was very distraught. She said, “I have a sister named Violet Moon and she has this brain condition. She has to have surgery, but they’ve canceled her insurance, and we don’t know what we’re going to do.” So I said, “Well let me get into this.” I talked to the insurance company, the doctor, the hospital, and I found out that short-term memory loss was a true medical side effect of this brain condition. So, the insurance company agreed to reinstate her insurance. We paid the back premium. So we did and Violet was able to go forward and have her surgery. It was very successful. So, my mom and dad tend to stay in Florida on furloughs. They get a furlough once every five years. So, I got to see them once every five years once I came back to America. But they come up to visit and people of my church always wanted to meet my missionary parents. So, I called up Ethel because she was elderly. I said, “Can you get Violet Moon and come to church on Sunday because mom and dad are coming and they want to meet you?” So she called up Violet and said, “Eve Stratton’s parents are coming to church on Sunday. Would you go with me?” And she said, “Oh, I know a lot of missionaries. I love missionaries. What are their names?” Ethyl said, “Their names are Corrine and Elmer Sahlberg.” There was a pause, and then Violet said, “That’s very strange. Thirty-five years ago, my husband and I gave $,1000 so Corrine and Elmer Sahlberg can go to Thailand.”
Justice Fischer: That is just amazing.
Justice Stratton: So, I happen to think that’s why I’m here. That’s why I have this job. That’s why I have this mission. Because of that check.
Justice Fischer: That’s one of the great stories, at least to me, I’ve heard on all this because it just takes the whole thing full circle. It could not be just coincidence. I do want to know about the stampede girls’ goat-tying competition you won?
Justice Stratton: Well, as I said, I was at this college that was basically 90 percent men because it was engineering in those days. Not many women went into that field. I was studying nuclear physics there and it’s a Christian college. So instead of a dance, because a lot of Christians believe dance is evil, I was never allowed to dance. But I love to dance. So they had a rodeo instead. And because it was Texas ‒ where the college was ‒ that fit too. So I had all these events and they had just a couple for women, and they had the girls’ goat-tying a contest. But they couldn’t get enough women to join it. So they asked me and I’m thinking, “I’ve ridden elephants. I can handle a goat.” So what I had to do is run out, you have to chase it down, you have to throw it down. You tie three legs together and put your hands up. So, I never had practiced. I just did it. I went out, threw it down, tied the legs, and raised my hands. Apparently, I did it faster than anybody else. I have a little gold goat sitting in my office. I put that on my resumé on my second campaign. It was the most talked-about thing. None of the other accomplishments mattered one bit. But that goat tying, by golly, they talk about it. It’s a fun little thing.
Justice Fischer: Well, let’s change (the subject) a little bit further. What do you see as the biggest or newest trend emerging in the court system?
Justice Stratton: I think (it’s) the declining access to justice and the declining ability to try cases. I know it concerns the bar, as a whole. It concerns me because when I was a trial lawyer, I tried a case two or three times a month and now you’ll talk to lawyers, they’re lucky if they get one trial a year. But sometimes you need those trials. You need the jury to sort things out. You need that and settlements sometimes are forced on you, because (of) the economics, rather than it’s the right thing to do in the justice of it. So, I’m really concerned about that, and I’m really concerned that people who don’t have income and have means don’t have the ability to access justice. I know the Court’s doing an access-to-justice project, but there is a threat now to cut the funding again for legal aid and that’s an ongoing battle. Everybody needs legal representation and so I’m a big proponent that the bar association, the bar, and the lawyers have a ticket to a monopoly. Because of that, they have a duty to give back, and they have a duty to serve and a duty to do pro bono (work).
Justice Fischer: Is it more difficult to be a judge today than when you started as a judge?
Justice Stratton: I don’t know. It’s more difficult to be a Supreme Court justice because you have that public scrutiny that you don’t have as a trial judge. You’re also making policy decisions. So one side hates you, and the other side loves you. So, I think it’s much more difficult on that stage that you’re in now than it was as a trial judge. But overall, I don’t necessarily think so.
Justice Fischer: (You have may heard of) one of those letters to yourself. What would you write? If you knew now what you didn’t know then?
Justice Stratton: I don’t know that I would have changed anything. I’m pretty happy with the path my life took. I always have been trying to work less, but never succeeded. I don’t know that I would have ‒ if I told my younger self to do that ‒ it would have done any work because it’s not doing any good now.
Justice Fischer: It seems like you enjoy what you’re doing.
Justice Stratton: I love what I’m doing now.
Justice Fischer: When you’re not doing all that, I understand you paint.
Justice Stratton: Yes.
Justice Fischer: What type of painting?
Justice Stratton: I do a lot of realistic paintings. I have a picture in my office that’s of a leopard drinking water at night. I do a lot of sunsets. My husband calls it the dark period. (I paint) a lot of sunsets with different scenes. Yeah, I just have fun doing it.
Justice Fischer: Would you do your own portrait?
Justice Stratton: No, no I’m not good at (painting) people. I don’t paint people very well.
Justice Fischer: I also understand you’re a fly fisherman. Where do you fish?
Justice Stratton: My husband and I have fished all over. We’ve been in Costa Rica. We’ve been in Chile. We have a place now in Montana. We fish and we go out there into Michigan.
Justice Fischer: Yeah, your law clerks told me I need to ask you certain things. I don’t know if it’s your lack or greatness in driving directional prowess?
Justice Stratton: GPS is the world’s great invention, let me put it that way. I also discovered that somebody named my condition. (It was) one of the lawyers I was doing a case with recently and I love it. I’ve got directional dyslexia. I will turn left instead of right. I will end up in London instead of Logan. Yes, I’m pretty famous for that. Even now, I hire a friend of mine to drive me when I go around the state and to do the stepping up work on mental health. I have someone drive me because I’m dangerous.
Justice Fischer: The other thing they talked about is how you allowed them or gave a little push for them to get involved with projects. Why?
Justice Stratton: Because being a law clerk is a very isolated job, as you know. Just like being a justice, it’s a very isolated job. You just sit in your cubicle and read or sit at home and read. I thought it was important for their sense of value and self-worth for them to also be involved in things and I wanted to encourage them to do that. So, I did, yes.
Justice Fischer: Now in terms of serving on the Ohio Supreme Court, what do you want your legacy to be?
Justice Stratton: (I made) an opinion that was common sense-based, based in precedent in law, and hopefully got to the right, moral conclusion as well.
Justice Fischer: What advice would you have for a newly minted judge or attorney?
Justice Stratton: Well, I have a 10 tips for success I always give at speeches. Get off your iPod, get off your iPhone, reconnect with people, go to lunches, sit down, and talk to them, get to know them. I mean, I used to invite my opponents out to lunch when I was a young lawyer for that rule. I’d say, “I just want to get to know you because we’re fighting tooth and nail.” When you get to know them, you still fight hard for your client. But the nastiness is gone because now you know this person. So I think the Internet has been a blessing and a curse at the same time. I would get 40 or 50 emails a day. Before, you never would talk to somebody 40 or 50 times a day, or open 40 or 50 letters. But by the same token, it has cut down on the human interaction, which I think is very important. And for lawyers and judges, I mean judges should get out of their ivory tower. Go to bar association events. I know I am preaching to the choir here. You were heavily involved. But that’s important to keep you connected to real life.
Justice Fischer: Thank you for your time.
Justice Stratton: Glad you did this. And thank you for taking on this project.
Ohio Stepping Up Initiative to Reduce Jail Incarceration
Stepping Up is a national initiative targeted at reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.
Without change, large numbers of people with mental illnesses (many with co-occurring substance use disorders) will continue to cycle through the criminal justice system, often resulting in missed opportunities to link them to treatment, tragic outcomes, inefficient use of funding, and failure to improve public safety.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) is collaborating with other leading organizations and local experts to support the common goal.
The Stepping Up initiative engages a diverse group of organizations, including those representing sheriffs, jail administrators, judges, community corrections professionals, treatment providers, people with mental illnesses and their families, mental health and substance use program directors, and other stakeholders.
Through its Community Innovations grants, which began in 2014, OhioMHAS took action to help counties reduce the number of criminal offenders with untreated mental illness and/or substance use disorders who continually cycle through county jails.
Stepping Up Ohio
The Stepping Up initiative focuses on creating long-term movement to raise awareness of the factors contributing to the over-representation of people with mental illness in jails, and then using practices and strategies that work to drive those numbers down.
Ohio Stepping Up will advance counties’ efforts through additional components: 1) the Call to Action, and 2) a National Summit.
As part of the Call to Action, Ohio’s county elected officials are encouraged to work with other leaders, people with mental illnesses and their advocates, and other stakeholders to pass a resolution in support of Stepping Up and commit to the six Stepping Up action steps.
As of January 2019, 47 Ohio counties have passed resolutions in support of Stepping Up Ohio, and have become participants in the initiative.