By Marc Kovac
Gov. John Kasich has named an appeals court judge with ties to the Mahoning Valley to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Judge Judith L. French, a Sebring native currently seated on the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus, will take over for retiring Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton.
Justice French was one of more than a dozen people considered for the post and one of three finalists.
“She’s going to be a great judge and a great addition,” Kasich said at a Thursday press conference. “I also think she’ll be a strong candidate when the time comes for her to run. She’s got a lot of fire in her.”
Justice French said she would “move justly and fairly to interpret Ohio law strictly, to always remember that my role as a judge is limited and to serve all of Ohio — the Mahoning Valley, central Ohio, all of Ohio — and give it my very best.”
Justice French has served on the 10th District bench since 2004, initially appointed and then elected twice. Before that, she was chief legal counsel to former Gov. Bob Taft.
Her legal career includes stints as deputy director for legal affairs at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and as chief counsel for former Attorney General Betty Montgomery.
Justice French has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court on two occasions, including the successful defense of a Cleveland school-voucher program.
She earned her law degree from Ohio State University. She and her husband and two children live in the Columbus area.
Kasich touted her Mahoning County ties during the press conference.
“Those Mahoning values of common sense, which are exactly the values that we had in McKees Rocks — blue collar, fear of God, common sense, love your neighbor, come to help whenever the time was necessary — those kinds of values are the values to me that are so important to the bedrock of our country and our state,” Kasich said. “So I was delighted to find out that she’s from that Mahoning Valley.”
Kasich also said he was pleased “we have such a qualified woman” for the seat.
“I like picking a woman,” he said. “I just like it. I love to have that point of view on the court.”
He added later, “I think that women a lot of times are the leaders in fighting for principle.” Her appointment maintains the female majority on Ohio’s high court.