Justice DeGenaro - Putnam Sentinel
Justice Mary DeGenaro (standing, left) speaks briefly with attendees of a luncheon at the Axe Handle, including Columbus Grove Mayor Ken Wright, Village Administrator Jeff Vance, and Putnam County Engineer Michael Lenhart. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

COLUMBUS GROVE — Last Wednesday, April 11, the Ohio Supreme Court held an ‘Off-Site Court’ session at Ottawa-Glandorf High School. Students from throughout the county were granted the opportunity to ask questions of the Justices prior to the official proceedings. They also observed the court hearing oral arguments for three cases, and were able to ask questions of the attorneys presenting those cases following their oral arguments (for more details, click on this link: A 'Supreme' opportunity realized).

After the morning court session, the Supreme Court Justices were hosted by Columbus Grove’s Axe Handle and its owner, Skyler Mayberry, who is also a teacher at Columbus Grove Schools. “By training, I’m a Social Studies and Government teacher,” says Mayberry. “It’s very cool. Of all the places in Putnam County, they chose to come here. I really appreciate Judge Schierloh and Judge Borer. Because they’re the ones that contacted me and they’ve been doing a lot of the groundwork for the Justice’s visit locally.”

The Supreme Court Judges seemed very appreciative as well. “It’s a privilege for the court to be invited to come to Putnam County. We’ve never been here before for our Off-Site Court,” began Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner. “I commented to myself as I was driving into Columbus Grove, I came in through the main street and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what a pretty little town.’ I’ve never been to [Columbus Grove] before. It is charming. That’s the word I would use. It is absolutely charming.”

When speaking later with Mayor Ken Wright, he expressed pride for the community of Columbus Grove, saying, “To have the Supreme Court come visit our little town is a big deal. I heard about the comments the Chief Justice made, and those were very nice. I feel the community presented itself well, particularly the Axe Handle. It’s always nice when the town gets noticed for something positive.”

During the luncheon, the justices were treated to a presentation on Putnam County by Leipsic High School student Olivia Nunez. “She did a remarkable job,” said Putnam County Probate Judge Michael Borer, “A very poised young lady. I think we showcased our kids and showcased Putnam County very well, and the Justices all commented on that to me as well.”

When speaking with Mayberry after the event, he echoed Borer’s thoughts on Nunez as well, saying, “She did a very nice job, and what a great experience for her, to sit and talk with the Justices…She seemed very poised when she was at the podium.”

Judge William Zimmerman of the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals, which covers Putnam County, also joined other local officials for the luncheon. “It was incredibly interesting, I really liked the student participation,” Zimmerman said of the morning proceedings. “The questions the students had were very good.”

This compliment was again similar to what many who participated stated throughout the day. “One of the things that I thought was great, that I wish more people could have heard,” said Mayberry, “[Justice Terrence O’Donnell] said the most about the importance of quality teachers, and he could tell that there were so many good ones in the county because of how well behaved our students were.”

“Now, of course, there’s more than just teachers in there, [the students] are coming from good homes and schools with expectations. But, he commented on how the teachers that make students read critically and write extensively are actually helping them. Because, in their profession, those are the skills that they need people to have.”

“[O’Donnell] thanked the teachers that were doing that. He also said that when people think of students, they sometimes think of ignorance and apathy, and he didn’t see either one of those two things in Putnam County, and I thought that was really a nice compliment…when people say really specific things like that, I think that’s going above and beyond, and the justices did that.”

During the luncheon, the Justices as well as local officials and lawyers from throughout the area dined on a meal of Riesling braised chicken, garlic smashed potatoes, mixed green salad with housemade vinaigrette, and a choice of dessert.