Ohio Justice (Ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton participates in a radio panel discussion on Criminal Justice & Mental Illness

Ohio Justice (Ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

A proposed Ohio House bill would bar the death penalty in cases where the convicted can prove he or she suffered from serious mental illness while committing the murder.

The proposal comes from a growing understanding about the role of mental illness in crime.

Today on All Sides, the intersection of mental health and criminal justice, and how some Ohioans are working to move people who are mentally ill from prison and into treatment.


  • David LelandOhio Representative for District 22, co-sponsor of House Bill 136 and the ranking member on the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee
  • Evelyn Lundberg StrattonFormer Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Project Director for Ohio Stepping Up Initiative
  • Michael WoodyCIT 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 

Listen: https://radio.wosu.org/post/criminal-justice-and-mental-health#stream/0

Wood County Ohio ‘steps up’ to keep people with mental illness out of jails. Retired Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton serves as State Project Director

Posted by the Sentinel-Tribune, 7 June 2019

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 wcadamhs@wcadamh.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.

Newspaper article: http://bit.ly/2R2X1Hi

Ohio Justice Patrick F. Fischer interviews former Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton in the fifth episode of “Reflections from the Bench.”

Ohio Justice Patrick F. Fischer interviews former Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton in the fifth episode of “Reflections from the Bench.”

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton



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.

Interview: Why Gary Sinise, aka Lt. Dan, Is a Grateful American

Editor’s Note: In May 2008, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Gary Sinise and several other distinguished Americans received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor at a ceremony in New York City.

Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Established in 1986 by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, the Ellis Island Medals of Honor pay tribute to American citizens of diverse origins for their outstanding contributions to their communities, their nation and the world.

Ranking among the nation’s most prestigious awards, recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.

Gary Sinise

Published by The Daily Signal, May 6, 2019

Twenty-five years ago, Gary Sinise played the role of Lt. Dan Taylor in the blockbuster movie “Forrest Gump.” It transformed his acting career and changed his life. Today, Sinise is an outspoken advocate for America’s military veterans. He’s also the author of “Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service.” Sinise recently spoke to The Daily Signal about the book, his acting career, and his passion for helping veterans.

Podcast Interview #454: Why Actor Gary Sinise Is a Grateful American

Please read the entire interview at https://dailysign.al/2Vm8oiL

Operation Legal Help Ohio’s New Leadership Team

Providing Pro Bono Civil Legal Help to Ohio Veterans


Note: The board of directors thanks Evelyn Stratton and Mike McCarthy for their leadership and steadfast commitment to serving Veterans. We are grateful! 

Jane Taylor, Board President 

Ms. Taylor retired as the Director for Pro Bono and Communications for the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation. Prior to her employment with the Foundation she practiced law for 25 years at the Akron law firm of Guy, Lammert & Towne. In 1994, Ms. Taylor was elected the first female president of the Akron Bar Association and was president of the Ohio State Bar Association from 2005 to 2006. She holds a B.A. from Kent State University and a J.D. from the University of Akron School of Law. As a bar leader, Ms. Taylor’s signature issue was encouraging attorneys to provide more pro bono legal services to low income and disadvantaged individuals. She is the daughter, widow, and mother-in-law of Veterans.
Robert Abdalla, Executive Director 

Prior to joining Operation Legal Help Ohio, Abdalla was with Reese Pyle Meyer PLL, practicing primarily as a civil litigator. He attended Ohio University, graduating summa cum laude, and earned a law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School.

He served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army from 2002-2007, deploying twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Early in his legal career, Robert served as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, providing civil legal representation to homeless and low-income veterans. He joined Operation Legal Help Ohio because he believes in its mission.

“We ask a lot from our Veterans,” Robert says, “We ask that they endure the austerity of war, and then we expect them to pivot and transition to civilian life. As both a Veteran and an attorney, I appreciate that a Veteran’s unmet civil legal needs will prohibit him or her from succeeding as a civilian. When civil legal needs go unresolved, they often multiply and snowball. Too often Veterans are unemployed or homeless because they could not afford an attorney. These Veterans are our brothers and sisters – we owe them our best efforts.

Register for the May 2, 2019 Ohio Stepping Up Webinar on Data Collection


In this webinar, attendees will learn about the three steps counties can take to accurately identify and collect data on people with mental illnesses in jails and the different ways counties are implementing these steps.

Ohio Stepping Up Initiative Newsletter April 2019

Please follow this link to read the entire newsletter:


Background: 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.

RecoveryOhio plan ‘will literally save lives,’ advocate says

Editor’s note: Ohio Supreme Court Justice (ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton was appointed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to be one of his advisers on the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council.

By Catherine Candisky 
The Columbus Dispatch 
Posted Mar 14, 2019

Gov. Mike DeWine said his budget plan will call for more services for Ohioans with mental health and substance abuse issues, addressing what he sees as “the state’s public health crisis.”

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine

“We have to focus a lot on prevention and we’re making a serious effort in this budget to deal with prevention. You got to look at short-term, short-term is more money for crisis situations.

“It’s the biggest complaint we get as we travel around the state is the people who have a health crisis, people who have an addiction crisis, they need help now, and so putting more resources in diagnosing the problem, getting them initial help, you’ll see that in our budget. You’ll also see a significant amount of money in prevention, starting in kindergarten,” DeWine said.

The governor’s remarks came at a press conference Thursday to release a report from his RecoveryOhio Advisory Group, which includes 75 recommendations for addressing such issues as stigma, prevention, treatment and support services, and law enforcement. However, the recommendations did not come with a price tag.

“About 13 Ohioans die each day from unintentional drug overdoses; approximately five people tragically each day take their own lives,” DeWine said.

Article Link: http://bit.ly/2FbAkLC

The SteppingUp Initiative: The Ohio Project: March 2019 Newsletter

Background: 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.


In This Issue:
A Message from Evelyn Stratton, Program Director
Grants: Watch for Deadlines
Webinars and Online Training
County News
News Stories, Tools and Resources
A Message from Evelyn Stratton,Program Director
We are excited that our Advisory Council has completed its initial work in making recommendations for the report to the Governor.

There was much agreement among the group regarding the necessary steps to be taken, and we are very proud of the work that we did together with the
Governor’s staff.

We have included two news articles that share with you how our work
progressed. Download a copy of the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council’s Initial
Report here: https://bit.ly/2FnIrpL

To read the full newsletter, go to http://bit.ly/2TITQJk

Stratton to Lawmakers: Stop Proposing Bills to Lengthen Prison Sentences

Despite broad bipartisan support to reform the criminal justice system, members of the General Assembly are undermining their own stated goals by continuing to introduce legislation extending prison sentences for certain crimes, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton said Friday.

“You have 93 bills introduced in the Legislature over the last two years for more time for their favorite crime. … There are several pending right now — more time for their favorite crime. Every one of those is the antithesis of what we want to do here,” Stratton told fellow members of the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council during the panel’s discussion on criminal justice and youth services at the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s offices in Columbus.

“We can send the message that the Legislature has to stop this,” Stratton said. “We have to say to them, ‘You have to do more in the tools for diversion.’ … Now, misdemeanors are sent for competency restoration. They are held for 30 or 60 or 90 days. They’re released with no treatment. They don’t get any treatment in the hospital beds. They sit there and they watch a TV show about law and order to teach them what the court system is. That’s the biggest waste of time, and we all agree on that. … If you know at the low level that they have an issue, put them right into treatment. Give us the legislative power to do that because it requires some legislative changes.”

Stratton, director of the Stepping Up Project in Ohio, said the Buckeye State is leading the country on a number of fronts on these issues, but sorely needs funding for crisis centers, housing and treatment.

“Give us the tools to fix it. And you — the Legislature, in your sentencing reform — stop criminalizing everything,” Stratton said. “We can’t keep adding mandatory sentences. The prison population keeps going up if you do that.”

Stratton said average (non-specialized docket) judges could use more education on best practices regarding mental health and addiction treatment.

“Our specialty dockets are really good about that because they have a team that gives them advice. Judges that don’t have a specialty docket don’t have that background or that understanding. We need a lot of help on that,” Stratton said, noting Ohio has the most specialty dockets in the country at approximately 280. “But they can only work if they’ve got the treatment options in that county. You can have a judge say, ‘I want them to go to treatment’ but if you don’t have that treatment provider in the county, if you don’t have that housing in the county, it’s not possible.”

She said there is currently unutilized money for specialty dockets in Ohio.

“We have a lot of funds unspent at the Office of Criminal Justice Services that courts have not applied for. We encourage more applications,” Stratton said, adding that the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services also has funding available for additional probation officers.

In addition to courts and the judicial system, the advisory council discussed the following topics on criminal justice: intervention and first interactions with police; jail and reentry; prison and reintegration; and probation and parole.

On the first category, members suggested carrying out intercept mapping and making sure those maps are distributed and used by policymakers. They also suggested at least some crisis intervention training for police officers during basic training, so they are better equipped to deal with people that have mental health and addiction issues. Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware said this training helps police officers avoid using force during the encounter, which improves the interaction for everyone.

On jail and reentry, members noted that inmates often cannot access medication to help with detox and often can’t receive anti-psychotic medication. When addicted inmates are suffering from withdrawal symptoms or not receiving their medication for their mental illness, it often results in them acting out and compounding their legal problems, members said. Other members also said it’s important to educate inmates on their drug tolerance levels before they leave jail, as many overdose right after getting out.

On prison and reintegration, members said more public health supports are needed. Former Gov. Ted Strickland said the state needs facilities “somewhere between” a prison and a hospital. Ware agreed, saying police would like to have someplace besides prison or the hospital to take addicts.

On probation and parole, members said too many individuals are going to prison for violations, undermining the purpose of having those systems in the first place. Another issue is the lack of housing for people using medication-assisted treatment and anti-psychotic medications.

The council had a more brief conversation on youth issues, which will be continued during the next meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

LeeAnne Cornyn, director of children’s initiatives in Gov. Mike DeWine’s office, told members that her office will be focused on improving programs on the first few years of development, early childhood education, foster care, mental health support and prevention education, among other items.

Teresa Lampl, associate director at the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers, said her organization is witnessing custody relinquishments because people are trying to access drug treatment.

“That should be a ‘never’ event. We talk about ‘never’ events in hospitals,” she said.

Lampl also said that children involved in multiple systems are often sliding between the cracks.

“The elephant in the room for this group is the kids on the autism spectrum who have co-occurring mental illnesses or substance-using as a treatment. We do not have systems prepared to deal with that,” Lampl said. “If you are an aggressive youth, there is no bed for you. We’re sending kids out of state because we don’t have the ability. …

“We’re seeing more and more aggressive youth, and we need systems that are able to respond. We had a Joint Legislative Committee on Multi-System Youth that actually had some good recommendations, but those recommendations haven’t been acted on,” she continued. (See The Hannah Report, 6/29/16.) “We have a tsunami of kids coming that are going to need that level of support and we are not prepared to deal with them. We keep pointing fingers as to who is responsible, and the reality is that we’re all responsible.”

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on February 15, 2019.  Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.

RecoveryOhio Advisory Council’s Initial Report Released

Editor’s note: Ohio Supreme Court Justice (ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton was appointed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to be one of his advisers on the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council.

Download a copy of the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council’s Initial Report here: https://bit.ly/2FnIrpL

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)— Ohio Governor Mike DeWine today released the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council’s Initial Report that makes recommendations on how to improve prevention, treatment, and recovery support efforts that address the state’s public health crisis – mental health and substance use.

“Far too many Ohioans have died and too many continue to struggle with mental health and substance use disorders. The recommendations, offered by the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council provide a framework for a new system of prevention, treatment, and support that we will work to implement,” said Governor DeWine. “Ohio should be a state that is a national model for prevention, offers top-notch treatment services, and supports recovery and well-being. Investing in streamlining and improving what we as a state are doing to prevent, treat, and encourage recovery, is truly an investment in Ohio’s future.”

Governor DeWine created the Recovery Ohio initiative and the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council to coordinate and improve how the state addresses mental health and substance use disorders. The Advisory Council includes a diverse group of individuals who have worked to address mental illness or substance use issues in prevention, treatment, advocacy, or support services; government; private industry; law enforcement; healthcare; learning institutions; and faith organizations.

The Council issued more than 70 recommendations in the areas of stigma, parity, workforce development, prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery supports, and data and outcomes measurement. The Council considered the needs of all Ohioans; however, two specialty populations were highlighted because of their unique needs – children and adults involved in the criminal justice system.

A partial list of recommendations is below:

  • Establish statewide prevention coordination with all state departments and agencies to ensure best practices, consistent messaging, technical assistance, and delivery of prevention services across multiple domains.
  • Commission a statewide campaign to address stigma against people with mental illness and substance use disorders.
  • Ensure that each patient’s needs and treatment recommendations are determined by a qualified clinical professional and promote insurance coverage of medically-necessary services identified by quality clinical care providers.
  • Review and create a comprehensive plan for safe, affordable, and quality housing that will meet the needs of individuals with mental health and substance use disorders and would include supported housing options, transitional housing, recovery housing, adult care facilities, and short-term stabilization options.

Members of the Advisory Council will continue to meet to form actionable and scalable solutions to address these recommendations

Governor DeWine News Release: http://bit.ly/2FdTsZm

Ohio Governor DeWine Says 2019 Budget will Reflect RecoveryOhio Recommendations

stratton reovery ohio

File Photo: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signs executive order creating RecoveryOhio Advisory Council with Advisor Ohio Supreme Court Justice (ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton (L) looking on.

The RecoveryOhio Advisory Council released its initial report Thursday, just under two months since members were named (see The Hannah Report, 1/18/19), and Gov. Mike DeWine said many of the report’s 75 recommendations will be reflected in the budget released Friday morning and represent a “blueprint” for his office and the Legislature.

“Ohio’s in the midst of a public health crisis” regarding mental health and addiction, DeWine said, citing Ohio Department of Health (ODH) statistics showing around 13 overdose deaths and five suicides each day.

Creating the RecoveryOhio initiative was his first act as governor, he noted, and it will coordinate work among departments, boards and commissioners to “act aggressively” in responding to the crisis. The 75 recommendations are “critical steps in addressing the needs of Ohioans” and will be a framework for actions over the next four years, DeWine said.

They include a public education campaign to reduce stigma that keeps Ohioans from seeking treatment, prevention coordination to ensure efforts reach Ohioans of all ages, expansion of crisis services and increased resources for children.

“You’ll see many of these recommendations reflected in our proposals,” DeWine said. “These recommendations, along with the investments we are making in our budget proposal, represent a responsible investment in Ohioans that will yield returns for generations.”

Beyond saying there would be “a lot” of focus on prevention, “significant assistance” to Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH) boards and funds for short-term solutions to help those in crisis, DeWine did not offer new information on specific numbers, saying that will have to wait until Friday. He did say the overall budget would be “a very conservative budget in the sense that we’re investing.”

“I think that it’s a conservative thing to invest in our future, invest in our kids (and) invest in our infrastructure, and that’s really going to be the emphasis of the budget we unveil tomorrow,” DeWine said. His administration has already provided information on some aspects of the budget. (See separate story, this issue.)

A release from DeWine’s office said the recommendations included:

– Establishing statewide prevention coordination with all state departments and agencies to ensure best practices, consistent messaging, technical assistance and delivery of prevention services

– Commissioning a statewide campaign to address stigma

– Ensuring that each patient’s needs and treatment recommendations are determined by a qualified clinical professional and promote insurance coverage

– Reviewing and creating a comprehensive plan for safe, affordable and quality housing that meets the needs of individuals with mental health and substance use disorders

The plan was also lauded by members of the advisory council during the press conference, including Terry Russell of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio; Cheri Walter of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities; and Marcie Seidel of the Prevention Action Alliance.

Russell said that “hope is restarted” for those living with these illnesses and their families, saying that the actions recommended will “literally save lives.” He also noted the section on children stood out in the report, saying they can “once and for all” recognize the need to break the cycle of neglect. The recommendations will also save millions spent on law enforcement, who he said act as the “quasi-mental health system.”

Walter praised the plan for focusing on people, including those in recovery, rather than bureaucracy, as many strategic plans do. Mental illness and addiction affect “every sector” of society, Walter said, and so she’s been honored to represent local ADAMH boards on the council as it will fall to local leaders to bring people together and implement that plan locally where “the rubber hits the road.”

Seidel said the report “embraces the full continuum of care, and it moves through the entire spectrum of prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery and aftercare help.” Prevention is too often forgotten due to efforts to provide immediate support to those dealing with addiction, but studies have found every dollar spent on science- and evidence-based prevention practices saves $18, she said.

Teresa Lampl, an advisory council member representing the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Service Providers, also responded in a press release. Her organization praised DeWine’s “bold vision, laser focus and long overdue investments in crisis stabilization services, specialty docket courts and child welfare services to help children and families impacted by addiction and mental illness.”

DeWine said Tuesday that his budget would include $7.5 million in funding for an additional 30 specialty courts in FY20-21. (See The Hannah Report, 3/12/19.)

Lamp said the report “provides a comprehensive set of actionable strategies that address everything from insurance parity, stigma reduction, behavioral health workforce development and establishment of a full continuum of prevention, treatment and recovery services necessary to help children and families access the care they need, when they need it and where they live.”

The full initial report is available at www.hannah.com/>Important New Documents>Library or at http://bit.ly/2TN7wD0

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on March 14, 2019.  Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.

“Too Ill To Execute”- A Nationwide Film Documentary Featuring Retired Ohio Justice Stratton and Others

“Too Ill To Execute” is a Nationwide Film Documentary Featuring Retired Justice Stratton and others who believe it’s time to stop executing people with severe mental Illness.


The Tennessee Alliance for the Severe Mental Illness Exclusion (TASMIE), in conjunction with its national partners, has produced an in-depth film detailing the urgency of a movement to exclude those with severe mental illness from the death penalty in states across the U.S. The film features the stories of persons directly affected by mental illness and the death penalty, medical and legal experts, as well as Tennessee State Senator Richard Briggs, sponsor of Tennessee’s legislation.

There are three versions of the film–this is the “longest 32 minute version”:

The complete 32-minute version includes an in-depth telling of William Morva’s story, with commentary from Rachel Sutphin (daughter of one of the murder victims) and Maria MacBain (long-time friend of William Morva).

The film includes expert commentary from Justice Evelyn Stratton (former Ohio Supreme Court Justice), Dr. Richard Briggs (Tennessee Republican State Senator, surgeon), David Singleton (capital defense attorney), Dr. Megan Testa (psychiatrist), and Anthony Fox (Mental Health consumer advocate).


The shorter 21-minute version includes a shorter version of the Morva story, plus most of the expert commentary that is in the complete version. The shortest 12-minute version includes most of the expert commentary that is in the complete version. This version does not delve into the Morva story.


RecoveryOhio Council Works to Identify Gaps in Services

RecoveryOhio Council Works to Identify Gaps in Services
Members of the advisory council for Gov. Mike DeWine’s RecoveryOhio initiative spent Tuesday afternoon identifying gaps in systems and services as they work toward developing policies for the governor’s upcoming budget proposal.

RecoveryOhio Director Alisha Nelson told council members that mapping out the needs and challenges of mental health and addiction treatment systems will be important for prioritizing what to address first in budget recommendations – due Friday, March 8 – and what to address in the longer term.

With facilitation from the Department of Administrative Services’ (DAS) LeanOhio office, council members broke into small groups for discussion and then reported back to the full group on gaps and challenges in crisis intervention, treatment services and recovery supports. The first council meeting last week had included a similar exercise on the topic of prevention.

During the discussion on crisis intervention, council members mentioned topics such as parity among payment sources; making use of the existing health care system rather than building separate facilities and programs; ensuring services are available on-demand and at the time of need; addressing workforce shortages; lack of reimbursement; addressing regional disparities in availability of services; and aligning the criteria used for involuntary commitment for mental health reasons and substance abuse reasons.


Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice  Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

Amid the discussion, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton said the initiative she’s involved with on reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails, Stepping Up Ohio, is in the final stages of compiling a report that will provide data on service availability, which she said could be helpful to the council’s efforts.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on February 5, 2019.  Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.

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Ohio Governor DeWine Appoints Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Stratton to his new RecoveryOhio Advisory Council

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced today the creation of a new council that will advise the Ohio Governor’s Office on critical matters concerning mental illness and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery support services in Ohio.

stratton reovery ohio

Ohio Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton (left) looks on as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signs an executive order creating the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council

This afternoon, Governor DeWine signed an executive order creating the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council.

“As I travel the state, I constantly hear from struggling families who say Ohio’s system for treating those with mental health and substance use disorders needs repair,” said Governor DeWine. “I’m calling upon the members of this council to advise my administration on strategies to mend this fractured system. With improvements, I truly believe that Ohio can better assist those who are struggling to recover and help them lead high-quality, productive lives.”

RecoveryOhio Director Alisha Nelson will chair the council, which includes a diverse group of individuals who have worked to address mental illness or substance use issues in prevention, treatment, advocacy, or support services; government; private industry; law enforcement; healthcare; learning institutions; and faith organizations.  The council also includes individuals who are living with mental illness and/or a substance use disorder and their families.

Members of the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council include:

  • Ted Strickland, Former Governor of Ohio
  • Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Retired, Project Director, The Stepping Up Initiative
  • John Tharp, Lucas County Sheriff
  • Pastor Greg Delaney, Outreach Coordinator, Woodhaven
  • Suzanne Dulaney, Executive Director, County Commissioners Association of Ohio
  • Joan England, Executive Director, The Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition
  • Orman Hall, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area / Ohio University
  • Dr. Navdeep Kang, Director of Operations Behavioral Health, Mercy Health Cincinnati
  • Teresa Lampl, Associate Director, Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Service Providers
  • Jessica Nickel, Founder, Addiction Policy Forum
  • Terry Russell, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio
  • Dr. Shawn Ryan, Chair of Payer Relations, Ohio Society of Addiction Medicine
  • Brenda Stewart, Founder, The Addict’s Parent United
  • Sarah Thompson, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Advocates for Addiction Recovery
  • Cheri L. Walter, CEO, Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities
  • Juliet Doris Williams, Executive Director, The P.E.E.R. Center

Additional members will be announced at a later date.

RecoveryOhio Advisory Council members will be tasked with issuing actionable recommendations to Governor DeWine and each cabinet-level state agency, board, and commission that provides services to individuals with mental illness or substance use disorders.

Governor DeWine has directed the council to issue recommendations on several pressing issues including, but not limited to:

  • Providing high quality prevention and early intervention programming in communities and schools;
  • Improving access to treatment services in Ohio for mental health and substance use disorders;
  • Developing support strategies on issues such as peer support, employment, and housing as foundations for wellness;
  • Improving the quality of care for mental health and substance use disorders in the community and in healthcare and criminal justice settings;
  • Creating efficiencies across systems;
  • Serving more underserved populations including youth, older adults, and veterans;
  • Measuring critical outcomes to gauge improvements in Ohio’s system of mental health and addiction services;
  • Coordinating federal, state, and local resources to ensure optimal use.

The advisory council will also make recommendations on fiscal appropriations in the state budget.

Governor DeWine has asked the council to issue their recommendations no later than March 8, 2019.

Operation Legal Help Ohio – Pro Bono Legal Help for Ohio Veterans

Please watch this video to learn more about Operation Legal Help Ohio.

Then go to our website http://www.olhohio.org/ if you are an Ohio veteran needing legal help, an Ohio lawyer wishing to volunteer your time or you wish to donate to this important cause.

Ohio has over 600,000 veterans, the sixth largest state veteran population in the United States.

USMC Reserve LTC Michael McCarthy joined Operation Legal Help Ohio (OLHO) in 2016 as the Executive Director. He is responsible for the day-to-day management of the organization and the execution of the mission. 


About Us

Operation Legal Help Ohio (OLHO) is a non-profit founded in 2013 to meet the unmet legal needs of Ohio’s brave men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.

Our mission is to marshal volunteer legal resources to help veterans and servicemembers avoid homelessness, remove barriers to employment, and protect their physical, mental and financial health.

OLHO connects veterans and servicemembers who meet eligibility requirements with our statewide network of volunteer attorneys.

Legal Assistance

is provided for the following legal matters:

  • Landlord/Tenant Issues & Evictions
  • Credit Card Debt & Other Consumer Issues
  • Uncontested Divorce or Dissolution
  • Wills & Advance Directives
  • VA Benefits Appeals
  • Expungement of Criminal Records
  • Driver’s License Reinstatement


While an Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton was focused on finding a path to assist Ohio’s veterans and servicemembers who experienced challenges within the legal system.

evelyn_stratton_color Full

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

She first urged the creation of Veterans’ Treatment Courts, a diversion program targeted at rehabilitating veterans facing criminal charges, rather than punishing them.

Stratton found that many of the veterans she encountered had issues with civil justice, not just criminal matters, and she was determined to build a program that would offer civil legal representation to those who could not afford to hire a lawyer.

Ohio Specialty courts provide treatment and services instead of jail time

But as his mental health and addiction worsened, so did his crimes. In 2004, he was convicted with his first felony — domestic violence — and spent a year in jail. By 2011, Rangel had been arrested 63 times in Stark County. Charges included child endangerment, receiving stolen property, aggravated robbery, and felony escape.

Rangel’s behavior took a critical turn in the spring of 2008 when he stole a car, robbed a convenience store at gunpoint, and, when pulled over by police, slipped out of his handcuffs and fled on foot. Recaptured and sitting in the back of a police cruiser, Rangel remembers telling himself, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Luckily for Rangel, after serving more than four years in prison, his case came before Stark County Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath in 2013. She decided that Rangel would make a good candidate for the county’s new Honor Court for veterans and active duty service members who have committed felonies that allow for probation



Stark County Honor Court is one of Ohio’s 245 specialty courts (sometimes called “specialized dockets” or “problem-solving courts”) aimed at providing treatment and services rather than jail time for offenders like Rangel, who suffer from mental health and addiction problems.


The judge works with a team to develop a case plan for each defendant and to closely supervise and support the defendant’s compliance. Studies show that specialized courts have greater success than traditional courts in keeping repeat offenders out of jail — saving both lives and the higher costs of imprisonment.

Steve Rangel Veteran and Honor Court mentor.

Rangel is a good example. Since graduating from the yearlong Honor Court program four years ago, he has been both arrest-free and drug-free. In fact, he now serves as a volunteer mentor to other veterans in the program.

“I’m a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a mentor — an actual asset to society,” he says. “Five years ago, if somebody told me I was going to be all that, I would have laughed it off.”

What made the difference? Besides the support from his wife and family, Rangel says, it was the supportive environment he found in Honor Court.

“From the very start, I noticed the care and concern from the prosecutor and defense attorney and, for the first time, I saw the judge as a person,” he says, as opposed to an authority figure.

Just as important, Honor Court connected Rangel with agencies and professionals who were able to diagnose his root problem for the first time — Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — and provide him proper treatment.

“I got VA (Veterans Affairs) services I didn’t even know existed,” he says.

The number of problem-solving courts in Ohio and across the country has soared since their inception in Florida 30 years ago, according to the National Center for State Courts.

Drug Courts for helping offenders with addiction problems are the most common type, with more than 3,000 in the U.S. and over 100 in Ohio. Other types of specialized courts in Ohio include those devoted to issues of mental health (43), family drug dependency (30), veterans (23), and re-entry after imprisonment (12), according to data from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Specialized courts must meet certain basic requirements before being certified by the Ohio Supreme Court, but they can differ widely in the services they provide and the success they achieve in keeping their graduates sober and law-abiding.

On average, drug court graduates are more than twice as likely to remain arrest-free a year after leaving the program than other offenders — a 75 percent success rate compared to 30 percent for traditional courts, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP).

Stark County Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath displays a plaque presented to her during the Stark county Honor Court.

Veteran court graduates have an even higher rate of success — nine out of 10 are arrest-free a year later, according to the NADCP. Stark County Honor Court prides itself on a 94 percent success rate among its graduates, many of whom were convicted felons at high risk of being repeat offenders before entering the program, Heath says.

Specialized courts also save taxpayers’ money. The average annual cost per participant in a drug or veterans court is $7,000 — less than a third of the $22,265 needed on average to imprison an offender, Heath says.

Problem-solving courts use a carrot-and-stick approach to deal with the underlying issues that lead to repeat offenses. Those issues can include mental illness, substance abuse, unemployment, and homelessness. The stick for compliance, of course, is the threat of jail time. The carrot is a combination of treatment and services that require a team approach to first assess the needs of the defendant and then find the resources to meet those needs.

Stark County Honor Court goes well above and beyond the state requirements for a specialized court — a big reason for its high success rate among even the worst offenders.

“It sets the gold standard for other specialized courts in Ohio,” says Eve Stratton, a retired justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and a pioneer in establishing specialty courts in Ohio.

Stark County Honor Court has gathered a team of addiction, mental health, and other professionals to assess each participant’s needs and then connect them with the VA and community-based services they need. It also runs its own commissary to provide emergency food and clothing for veterans and offers perks for good behavior that include fuel cards and bus tokens.

A key to its success has been recruiting and training a cadre of veterans who volunteer to work as mentors with the participants. Mentors take a personal interest in each participant, meeting with them outside court and appearing by their side during court sessions. Among the court’s mentors are the Louisville Police Chief and a Stark County Sheriff Deputy.

Unfortunately, far fewer resources are found in rural areas of Ohio where the prevalence of opioid addiction is worse, says Keith Durkin, a professor of sociology at Ohio Northern University in Ada. Durkin called the opioid crisis “the greatest public health threat since the Spanish Flu of 1918” that killed 675,000 Americans.

“We’re fortunate in Hardin County that everyone is on the same page — the courts, the sheriff, the police — when it comes to drug court,” Durkin says. “But we still have a couple of challenges — a shortage of detox and rehabilitation centers locally as well as providers who can prescribe [treatment medications].”

The result in many less populated areas of Ohio is that drug court participants often have to drive long distances or find other means of transportation to get the services they need, sometimes venturing into the same urban neighborhoods where they purchased the drugs to begin with, Durkin says.

Worse, he says, research shows that rural and small-town residents are often ashamed to seek treatment because of the greater stigma there associated with addiction “because of a tradition of self-reliance,” Durkin says.

There’s also the greater possibility that if you do seek services you will encounter someone you know or are related to in the treatment system.

The passage of Issue I, which lowers the penalties and jail time for offenders convicted of possessing smaller amounts of drugs in Ohio, might have dramatically reduced the effectiveness of drug courts across the state by taking “the stick” out of the hands of judges, Durkin says.

“When we don’t have the threat (of significant jail time) I don’t know how else we’re going to get compliance,” he says.

But David Jaros, a former public defender and a professor of law at the University of Baltimore, disagrees. He believes “the stick” of jail time can force many addicts into treatment who aren’t ready and, when they fail to comply, result in even more jail time than if they hadn’t entered drug court.

“People don’t want to be addicted to drugs,” he says. “If there were some magic pill out there that would end addiction, they would take it. I think people over-estimate the value of that stick.”

The key to a successful drug court, Jaros says, is a judge who is flexible enough to make concessions for relapsed offenders rather than throwing them in jail.

“If judges don’t realize that users will often fail,” he says, “then they’re not serving the interest of the defendant and they’re wasting valuable resources.”

Judges who preside over specialized courts are, in essence, volunteering their extra time without extra pay from the state, one reason there aren’t more such courts in Ohio, Heath says.

“A judge has to have a passion for the project,” she says. “It’s just not something every judge is interested in doing.”

Heath also says that, if Ohio is serious about tackling the opioid crisis and the problems of veterans, its political leaders need to look at giving more support to specialized courts.

“Clearly,” she says, “our legislators need to become educated about this approach.”




Youngstown Municipal Veterans Treatment Court Judge inducted into Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame

Retired Youngstown Veterans Treatment Court Judge Robert Milich is inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. Thank you for your service, Judge Milich, on this Veterans Day!


Judge Milich and granddaughter at 2018 Inudction ino OHVHOF

Eve Stratton congratulates retired Youngstown Municipal Veterans Treatment Court Judge Robert Milich (holding his granddaughter) at his induction into the 2018 Class of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

This annual event recognizes inductees to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, which has inducted more than 560 veterans since its inception in 1992.

Each year, an executive committee, made up of representatives from Ohio’s veterans organizations, selects 20 inductees from applications received from across the state and nation.

Our inductees are leaders in a variety of areas including business, entertainment and education. Most importantly though, they all have made significant impacts on their communities.

Inductees into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame served their country honorably in a branch of military service and continued to serve their communities, state and nation after discharge.

New Franklin County Ohio Sheriff’s Office unit aims to address mental health issues – Retired Justice Stratton Supports New CID Unit.

Local News

By: Rob Sneed  NBC4 Columbus, Ohio

Link to video http://bit.ly/2K8Hh4i 


 COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A new push from local law enforcement to give those suffering from mental illness the help they need instead of going to jail.

The sheriff’s office started a new unit called the “Community Intervention and Diversion” unit, or CID. Deputies say they can’t always predict what’s going to happen on calls especially if the person they’re responding to is mentally ill. Sgt. Scott Blacker said CID will help officers better respond.

“Our goal ultimately is to be in place in the field with clinicians working alongside trained professionals.  Together we can reach out to those in need and get them the help they need,” said Blacker.

Scott Blacker said this is already being done though the office’s crisis intervention team CIT. The CID unit then helps connect the person and their family to mental health resources, to get them help they need instead of going to jail.

Evelyn Stratton, a former Ohio Supreme Court Justice, said this is a great thing.

“People who are on drugs and alcohol get arrested, they do have withdrawal issues, but they get better in prison or jail. When people have mental issues who are arrested they get worse,” said Stratton.

Stratton was a part of the push to get law enforcement across the state to form crisis intervention teams for the mentally ill. She is supportive of the sheriff’s office’s efforts.

“It’s amazing the transformation that happens when they get on medication they get treatment. They get housing they go back to school they get,’ said Stratton.

Called to Connect: Retired Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton’s life and work featured in Ohio State Alumni Magazine

Stratton OSU Alumni Magazine

As an Ohio Supreme Court justice, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton ’79 JD held a unique role of power and prestige. Still, a passion for advocacy — instilled by her Christian missionary parents — bubbled without a proper outlet. Stratton found a release in leaving the bench. A daily dynamo, she’s now creating communities big and small to help reduce the number of people with mental illness in jail, including juveniles and military veterans. Come along for a ride with a Buckeye always working on a plan to get from here to there. Hang on.

There are no windows in Meeting Room B in the basement of John McIntire Library in downtown Zanesville, Ohio. Fluorescent lights cast a pallid tone, heightened by blank, beige walls. The space is functional, but far from the ornate hall of the Ohio Supreme Court, where Evelyn Lundberg Stratton ’79 JD presided for 16 years before resigning as a justice in 2012 with two years remaining in her term. She made the career move to better quench a thirst for advocacy, which on this morning has led her to a rented room in the seat of Muskingum County, where she sits at a folding table and eats lunch from a paper plate with plastic utensils.

Stratton doesn’t want to be anywhere else. About 30 people from the county’s social services agencies, judicial system, law enforcement, medical fields and higher education have gathered to hear her speak about The Stepping Up Initiative of Ohio, the state’s partnership with a national program aimed at reducing the number of people with mental illness in jail. As project director, she has visited more than half of Ohio’s 88 counties in the past two years to extol and explain the initiative, and 41 have passed resolutions to implement it.

Muskingum County has already signed on, but Stratton has returned to provide details about the six-step planning process and tools available to the true heroes, as she refers to those gathered before her today. She’s also here to ignite their coals with her own fire.

“Everybody has the power to make a difference,” Stratton tells those assembled. “It can start with one small thing. Don’t think you have to join a big organization to save the world. Start small. Make a difference in one person’s life. You get to a mile inch by inch.”

Andrew Ina

At 65, Stratton is a hummingbird in scuffed high heels. She blinks, fidgets, gestures for emphasis as her words flow forth in a torrent, no notes or microphone needed. She could have presented this information in an email or conference call, but Stratton — “Call me Eve,” she says — made the one-hour drive from her home outside Columbus to look people in the eye, listen to their concerns, introduce them to one another, cajole them to converse, offer advice, bridge all gaps. It’s not a performance, for that suggests insincerity. Instead, this child of Christian missionary parents, who was born and raised in Southeast Asia, knows no other way. She calls the work she’s doing now her mission, and so today there is zealotry in Zanesville. Veterans of Stratton meetings chuckle at a description of the day, for they know well what it’s like to be in a room with the former justice in full flight.

“She’s a force,” says former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown ’85.

“She’s a dynamo,” declares Tracy Plouck ’97, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“She’s relentless,” says Tom Stickrath ’79, who heads the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

Thom Craig has spoken alongside Stratton more than 40 times since Stepping Up launched in 2015. She has met him each time with a warm greeting, and she listens intently to his speech as if she’s never heard of this topic before. Stratton first felt a calling to advocate for people with mental illness —many of them juveniles and veterans — as a trial judge. In seven years on the Franklin County Common Pleas Court bench, she saw many of the same individuals recycle through on charges. Instead of falling prey to cynicism, the self-described “doer” sought system reform through collaboration. As director of the mental health program for Peg’s Foundation, a sponsor of the privately funded Stepping Up Initiative of Ohio, Craig has never seen a hint of negativity in Stratton.

“She always sees a way,” he says. “Maybe that’s because she’s seen so much.”

An obligation to give back

Mementos of a happy personal life and sparkling career decorate Stratton’s small, tidy office at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, the Columbus law firm where she has provided counsel part-time, behind the scenes, since leaving the Supreme Court five-and-a-half years ago. Photos of her husband, Jack Lundberg, and two adult sons, Tyler and Luke Stratton, are intermingled with awards, including the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor and a trophy with this inscription: “LeTourneau College Girls Goat Tying, First Place, 1972.” Yes, she once tied goats in a rodeo. Here, too, are statues of elephants, paintings of leopards, lions and zebras, and a photograph of her father, Elmer, on the Mekong River, a reminder of her upbringing in Southeast Asia.

“If I died tomorrow, I will have lived more lives than most people ever get a chance to,” Stratton says. “I remember thinking that 20 years ago. Because of that, I feel like I have an obligation to give back.”

Stratton’s passion for advocacy stems from her parents’ missionary work, but it’s been shaped by her own life experiences. As a child in Thailand, her house was a bare wooden structure with no running water or electricity. Pythons and boa constrictors were common. After age 6, she lived apart from her parents for nine months at a time while attending boarding school in war-torn Vietnam. She was 14 when the Tet Offensive escalated safety concerns in 1968, prompting the family to evacuate to Bangkok. It wasn’t the last time danger breathed down her neck. She’s been lost in the jungle for hours at a time, ridden an elephant during a stampede — “They rock back and forth sideways,” she reports — and rope-climbed mountains in Malaysia. A school bus once forced her car off the road on a campaign trip. As a trial judge, a death threat prompted Columbus police to tail her with protection for a short period. She keeps a reminder of that time: a tiny replica of a tombstone, bestowed by a fellow judge with a similar sense of humor.

“Nothing fazes me,” Stratton says. “I’m not afraid of any problem. I’ll tackle it.”

MIssionary Elmer Sahlberg paddles Southeast Asia's Mekong River

Missionary Elmer Sahlberg, who shared with daughter Evelyn a zeal for helping others, travels the Mekong River in Southeast Asia

Young Evelyn and friends, Nong Khai, Thailand

Friends surround young Evelyn in Nong Khai, Thailand

Photos courtesy of Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

Evelyn accepts a ride on an elephant in Bangkok

Teen Evelyn accepts a ride on an elephant in Bangkok

Fearlessness and $500 were all Stratton possessed when she moved alone to America for college at 18. She held several small jobs while earning a degree in history from the University of Akron, then worked nights at the Lazarus cosmetics counter while enrolled in Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law. Alphabetical seating meant the BCI’s Stickrath sat next to her that first year, and he recalls his friend as a smart, serious student. “That combination has obviously served her well,” he says. “It’s been no surprise to see the career success she’s had.”

Stratton also showed ferocious determination while breaking into the male-dominated field of law. She applied for numerous jobs in her first six months after graduation. No, she kept being told. “I kept interviewing and interviewing because I loved it, and I knew I’d be good at it,” says Stratton, who eventually was hired by a small Columbus law firm. She took cues from the book Dress for Success, plowed hours into cases, impressed others in the courtroom with her preparation and networked persistently, even with adversaries. She wanted to be a judge by age 50. “There’s no explanation why, other than it was my calling,” Stratton says. “It just felt like that was what I was supposed to do with my life.” In 1989, she became the first woman elected to Franklin County Common Pleas Court. She was 34.

“To some extent, she got tested by the lawyers because of her youth,” says Michael Close ’67, a fellow Republican elected to the same court that year. “Eve had to be tough. She had to learn when she had to make the calls and when she could bend. She did a fine job.”

Stratton learned how to get things done, sometimes enlisting Close to introduce her ideas about court administration so there’d be less pushback from older, male judges. This woman prosecutors dubbed “The Velvet Hammer” for her tough sentencing in white-collar crime cases wasn’t afraid to do what she thought necessary. She never buckled under her workload, which grew like spring weeds after Gov. George Voinovich appointed her to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1996. She later earned three six-year terms from voters. Dave Smith, her friend and volunteer driver for nearly 30 years, removed a bench seat from the back of his black Chevy van and installed a countertop desk so she could read legal briefs and write on the road. “We’d go to a campaign dinner or fundraiser in Cleveland or Akron or wherever and she’d get back in the van at 10 o’clock at night,” Smith recalls. “She’d take a 5- or 10-minute nap, and then she’d get up, turn the lights on and work the rest of the drive home. It didn’t matter what time of night it was, she’d work.”

‘I was unleashed’

Despite loving her role as a justice, the work closest to Stratton’s heart increasingly involved improving a judicial system swollen with repeat offenders experiencing mental illness. “I had several family members over the years suffer from mental illness, and I saw what it could do to a family,” she says. “As a trial judge, I had so many cases involving the mentally ill. They didn’t belong in the system, but I didn’t know what to do with them. The more I researched it and talked to people involved, I realized there was a huge need. It was an area without much leadership. People have a passion for cancer or diabetes, but mental illness didn’t have a political voice. I felt I could make a difference. The veterans courts were an extension of my mental health work, and working with juveniles was another version.”

Stratton formed and chaired committees to combat the challenges. After learning that her early strategy of jailing those convicted most often led to costly recidivism, not necessary treatment, she created an atmosphere of acceptance for mental health courts that took into account the complicated issues involved. The work led to the creation of 44 mental health courts and 23 veterans courts in Ohio. Her time kept evaporating until 2012 when she had one of her “eureka moments,” which occasionally come out of the blue to offer a clear path. Stratton concluded her calling to help provide mental health services to offenders would best be pursued as a private citizen.

“Think of how courageous it was for her to leave the Supreme Court,” McGee Brown says. “Most people can’t wait to get into those seats and stay forever.”

Instead, Stratton couldn’t wait to get into the community at large and build small communities bonded by a just cause. “I was unleashed,” she says.

Her Stepping Up colleague Craig says Stratton has rewired, not retired. Some mornings, she wakes up without an alarm clock, “my mind going so much I’ve got to get up and deal with it.” Carrie Marioth, legal secretary at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, says Stratton’s schedule is “bonkers.” Problem-solving often has her meeting with county officials somewhere around the state, GPS required. For events outside Columbus, she still works in the backseat while Smith drives her Ford Escape. “We’ve got two cell phones, an iPad and a laptop going in the car at all times,” Smith says. “The phone doesn’t stop ringing, and she doesn’t stop answering emails, from the minute she gets into the car until we get back home. It wears me out. She’s passionate about what she’s doing, and I think when you’re passionate about something, you find the energy to do it.”

She also has passion and energy for the practice of law, and about one-third of her time is spent as counsel with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, a job she’s held since early 2013. She works with the firm’s clients -and sometimes outside companies and law firms throughout the countryin an advisory role that she sees as a direct application of her Ohio State education.

“I am basically an appellate coach,” Stratton says. “I try to make excellent lawyers even better. I help them shape their arguments, craft their briefs, and they practice their oral arguments with me pretending to be the judge to prepare for cases. It’s a lot of fun. I like the complexity of the difficult legal issues. I like pitting my mind and training against the best way to craft an argument. I find it very satisfying professionally and emotionally.”

Although no longer a justice, Stratton’s advocacy work still occasionally lands her in the halls of state power, where her renowned reputation for personal connection and communication command attention — and ignite action. “She does not take no for an answer,” Plouck says. “If you want to move an initiative forward, she is an excellent partner to have.”

Seeing a person instead of a title enables Stratton to keep party lines from walling off progress. McGee Brown, a Democrat, says it was clear that Stratton viewed herself as a public servant, not a politician, when they served together on Franklin County Common Pleas Court and the Ohio Supreme Court. “As a colleague, she was great to work with,” McGee Brown says. “Eve and I didn’t always agree, but it was never in a disrespectful way.”

When the Ohio Attorney General’s Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness (which Stratton co-chairs) met recently, attendees introduced themselves and their work affiliation. Someone delivered an often-heard quip, “I work for Eve Stratton.” Another replied,
Stratton meets with law enforcement in Columbus, Ohio

Stratton, shown here at a meeting in Columbus with law enforcement officers representing 83 counties, joins forces with officials at all levels of government to further the causes of people with mental illness.

Jo McCulty

A connector in her element

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

This quote by French philosopher Albert Camus is one of Stratton’s favorites, fueling 60- and 70-hour work weeks despite being of retirement age. She’s set a goal to give up Saturday and Sunday work within the next two years, and there are means of escape. Her husband, whom she credits for his abiding support in all her endeavors, is building a home they will share in the Montana wilderness. While the house is under construction, the couple retreats to a rustic 10-by-10-foot cabin on the land they’ve owned for three years. They’ve been fly-fishing in Chile and Costa Rica, and they enjoy traveling to see Stratton’s sons, Luke, a light and sound director for music shows who lives in Denver, and Tyler, an assistant film and TV director in Los Angeles. At home, Stratton cooks Thai food, works in the garden, paints and writes poetry and science fiction stories.

Yet one pursuit tugs at her heart and demands her time more than most others.

“She really likes getting people together in a room, talking about a problem and getting them to move forward on it,” Tyler says. “She has this great ability to get people to want to do stuff they didn’t know they wanted to do. Her way is not to play hardball with them; it’s more like kill them with personal attention.”

Stratton is in her element on this morning in Zanesville, walking out from behind the podium, pointing to people, prodding participation in the library basement. She asks all 30 who they are and what they do, and responds each time by rattling off suggestions about who in the room could help whom and how.

Brian Wagner, executive director of the Muskingum County Community Foundation, mentions a grant. “Now here is a person who said he’s here to help,” Stratton tells the others, “and he has money!” Laughter fills the room. “A little money,” Wagner clarifies. “I’ve learned you don’t get unless you ask,” replies this contingent’s connection maker.

Stratton’s idea of leadership is to empower others. She says for some unknown reason she’s always been able to see — often in ways others don’t — who should be in a group and how they should be linked. Her job is to make everyone coalesce, no matter their diverse agendas. With that intention, a sense of accomplishment is palpable on a rainy morning in Muskingum County as the two-hour meeting closes with applause. Zanesville Municipal Court Judge William Joseph approaches Stratton. “What you are doing is wonderful,” he tells her.

As the room clears, Stratton collects her Stepping Up brochures, lifts her briefcase and, in uncharacteristic fashion, heads slowly down the hall. A day earlier, she spoke in Columbus to law enforcement officers from 83 counties at a Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association gathering. Several thanked her after that presentation, in which she shared a similar swirl of names, program details and suggestions for dealing with mentally ill criminals. Now, less than 24 hours later in Zanesville, Stratton gets on the elevator and lets out a sigh. “I always feel like a balloon deflating after one of these,” she says.

The feeling doesn’t last. Zanesville is barely in the rearview mirror when Stratton — papers spread around her in the car’s backseat — puts in her earbuds and joins a conference call as the miles roll by on Interstate 70. Home beckons in Columbus, where on a small scrap of paper in her office desk is an unattributed quote, one she considers a good motto to live by.

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, mango juice in one hand, chocolate in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘WOO HOO — what a ride!’”


Synchronicity: one of the many blessings of life

You never know how the good you do — the person you assist or the thing you advance — can come back to you in ways you don’t expect.

Before I was born, my parents were assigned to a church in Alabama in preparation for doing missionary work. Their mission required them to raise $1,000 for passage to Thailand. My father was making only $50 a week as a pastor, so Mom started praying. Sure enough, one day Dad came home with a check for $1,000. A church family in Toledo, Ohio, picked my parents at random from a list of missionaries and sent them a check.

When I was practicing law, I was doing a will for a widow named Ethel Morris. She was very distressed. Her sister, Violet Moon, needed brain surgery, but her insurance had been canceled because she’d forgotten to pay her premiums. I got involved, and doctors found that her memory loss was a medical side effect of her condition. I got the insurance company to reinstate Violet’s coverage once she paid her bills, and Violet went on to have a successful surgery.

Violet Moon

Violet Moon played a profound role in the life of Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, even if Stratton didn’t know the full story for decades.

Courtesy of Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

A few months later, my parents came to visit, and I invited Ethel to meet them. She asked if her sister Violet could come because she’d always had an interest in missionary work. “Sure,” I said.

Ethel called her sister, and Violet said: “I love missionaries. I know a lot of them. What are their names?”

Ethel said: “Their names are Corrine and Elmer Sahlberg,” which is my maiden name.

There was a long pause.

And then Violet said: “That’s very strange. Thirty-five years ago, my husband and I gave $1,000 to Corrine and Elmer Sahlberg to go to Thailand.”

So, you see, I think that I’m in the right spot — helping people with mental illness — for a reason. — Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, as told to Todd Jones


Stratton’s Tips for Success

All of us can take a lesson from this advice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton regularly offers law students and young lawyers.

1. Set goals. Make small steps to meet short-term goals and develop a plan for five years and beyond.

2. Find mentors to help you achieve your goals.(Hers included a political mentor to guide her on party politics, a bar association mentor to help with networking and learning about other paths, and a law practice mentor to assist on the job.)

3. Network. Set up a lunch when you don’t need something. (Her law-practice calendar included four lunch dates a week — with opposing counsel, bar association colleagues, charitable organization representatives and community leaders.).

4. Take risks, and don’t be afraid to lose.

5. Get involved in organizations. Move from subcommittee to co-chair to board. Go the extra mile. Do the work.

6. Love every stage of your career — not just tomorrow. Enjoy what you are doing right now.

7. Never mistreat anyone, especially administrative assistants and other staff. They are the key to access the boss, and it is the right thing to do.

8. Leave good behind, wherever you go.Understand that you are blessed. Pay forward. Practice pro bono for those in need. (Relatives don’t count.) Give to charity in time and money.

9. Winning is not the most important thing. How you handle things along the way is.

10. The best motto is last: Family first. Haven’t taken a vacation in five years? That’s bad for all involved. Do things with and for your family, and make it a rule to treat your loved ones better than your boss and clients.