“The Supreme Dare in You!” event was held in KU Ballroom on Sept. 26 with Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody J. Stewart.
Justice Stewart made history as the first African American woman elected to the state’s Supreme Court.
The event was sponsored by the University of Dayton School of Law, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Women’s Center. The event was also endorsed by several student organizations including Feminists United, UDayton Votes and the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center.
Lisa Borello, director of the Women’s Center, introduced Stewart to share her story of “hope, strength and courage.”
Stewart was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2018. She has 30 years of experience in the legal field.
Stewart did not always have an interest in law. She studied music as an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, and her first job out of college was in healthcare.
Her first experience with the judicial system was when she was 21 years old and received a traffic ticket for running a red light. She challenged the ticket and won. This proved to her that the justice system worked.
She received her law degree from Cleveland State University with a full scholarship. Initially, she did not foresee becoming a judge. She was a civil defense litigator, law school administrator and professor before being elected to the Court of Appeals in 2006.
She has been on the Supreme Court for nine months now. While running, she raised the least amount of money out of all her opponents. Stewart never lost hope and “had faith in the fact that if I was meant to be on the Supreme Court, that’s where I’d be.”
Burnette Clingman, founder/CEO of Burnette Clingman Enterprises, interviewed Stewart and asked her what she brings to the court.
“I make the court better by being there,” Stewart said. She also added that she brings “diversity of thought and background.”
While speaking on what the public expects out of their justice system, she quoted Maya Angelou, “We are more alike than we are unlike.”
Regardless of political party, “we want our officials to be fair and not biased,” Stewart said.
Stewart also discussed the death penalty and jail sentencing.
“Our system of corrections doesn’t necessarily deal with corrections,” she said. “I think we need more accountability in our judicial system. As good as our judicial system is, we can do better.”
Stewart concluded the evening with some advice–“At each step of your life, look at what’s before you and conquer that.”
Photos courtesy of Carolyn Kroupa