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7th District Judge Mary DeGenaro to run for Ohio Supreme Court

Legal News Reporter

Published: October 12, 2017

After serving nearly 18 years on the bench of the 7th District Court of Appeals, Judge Mary DeGenaro has received the Republican Party’s endorsement for a run at a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court.

She was first elected to her seat on the appellate court in 2000, and was re-elected in 2006 and 2012. Her term will expire at about the same time as her term would begin on the Supreme Court, if she is elected to the higher position, leaving the appellate court position open for the 2018 election cycle.

This will be Judge DeGenaro’s first attempt at a statewide election and she said that she is looking forward to traveling to the parts of the state that she has not yet visited.

“The 7th District covers eight counties, and one of the perks of serving on this seat is that I have had a chance to speak [to many] groups and to interact with the public,” she said. “The election of judges is a good thing. That’s what keeps us accountable.”

The eight counties comprising the jurisdiction of the 7th District are Mahoning, Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe and Noble.

“This will be my first foray statewide,” she said. “Ohio is a beautiful state and it is amazing how different people are [throughout the state]. This will be a great way to see the state and meet the people.”

Judge DeGenaro is not expected to have a primary challenger so she will be on the ballot for the high court in November 2018, for the term that starts Jan. 1, 2019. That seat is currently occupied by Justice Terrence O’Donnell, who cannot run for re-election because of his age. Justice William O’Neill is also age-limited.

Judge DeGenaro lives in Poland Village, just outside of Youngstown. A native of Cleveland Heights, DeGenaro said that she moved to the Youngstown area in high school. Other than attending law school in Cleveland, she has lived in the Mahoning Valley since then.

She received her bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University in 1983 and her juris doctorate from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1986.

During her tenure on the appellate court, Judge DeGenaro has sat by assignment with the Ohio Supreme Court and multiple appellate districts. Her professional service includes membership in national, state and local bar associations, as well as the Ohio Women’s Bar Association where she currently serves as secretary.

She has also served on numerous local nonprofit boards, including the Youngstown library and Mahoning Valley Historical Society, and has taught political science at YSU.

Among many contributions to the state bar and bench, Judge DeGenaro was a founding member of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Specialty Board in 2005, and has been the co-chair of the Judicial Ethics & Professionalism Committee since 2013.

In the latter position, she said that she is particularly proud of working with the “Moyer Civility Group,” decrying the lack of civility that she sees stretching from television courtroom reality shows into local courts and beyond.

“We need to be engaged and educated and willing to talk civilly with each other,” she said.

Judge DeGenaro’s said her judicial philosophies can be expressed in a basic overview that includes a “classic separation of powers,” among the three branches of government.

“Judges need to be mindful of leaving law and policy to the legislative and executive branches,” she said.

She said she is also mindful of “dual sovereignty” between the Ohio and United States constitutions. Beyond the general concept of federal supremacy, she noted that the Ohio Constitution covers many areas that the U.S Constitution does not.

“Ohio has its own history, with different circumstances, different times, different knowledge base” than the federal document,” she said.

She added that she is reticent to “go down the path of advisory opinions. Keep to the issues in front of you.”

The job of a judge, she said, is to “resolve disputes by applying the law equally to all, regardless of the outcome.”

Judges, said DeGenaro, “are fair, unbiased, impartial and are not above the law. That is how I have always conducted myself. That is why I do not take any public positions on an issue, because one may come before me.”

If she does win a Supreme Court seat, DeGenaro said that she will miss living and working in the area.

“I have been very fortunate,” she said. “I love this job. I’ve spent my entire legal career in this area, so [this run for office] is bittersweet. “But I am excited about this new opportunity.”