Julie Carr Smyth
COLUMBUS: Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland picked the woman who ran at his side in his failed re-election bid as the next justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.
Yvette McGee Brown will be the first black woman to serve on the state's highest court and the third black justice in Ohio history. She will assume the seat Jan. 1.
The Democratic governor selected McGee Brown, the former lieutenant governor candidate, to fill the vacancy created by the November election of Justice Maureen O'Connor as chief justice.
Strickland said McGee Brown, raised by a teenage mother and her grandmother, would bring an important viewpoint to the Republican-dominated court.
''Her diversity of experience, work as a former judge, and advocacy for the welfare of Ohio families will add a unique perspective and balanced decision-making to Ohio's Supreme Court,'' he said in a statement. ''I have no doubt that Yvette will provide a wise and compassionate voice for the most vulnerable to our highest court.''
Before joining Strickland's campaign, McGee Brown had served as leader of a Columbus nonprofit and as a juvenile court judge.
Strickland chose her for the court over other potential candidates, including Attorney General Richard Cordray, who was defeated in his November re-election bid; Kent Markus, Strickland's chief counsel; and sitting Chief Justice Eric Brown, who is leaving the court after losing in November's election.
Yvette McGee Brown was the founding president of the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. A lifelong Columbus resident, she also served as a juvenile and domestic relations judge on the Franklin County Common Pleas Court from 1993 to 2002.
''Judge Yvette McGee Brown is a remarkable woman with a keen understanding of how the law and the courts impact the everyday lives of ordinary Ohioans,'' Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said in a statement. ''She will make sure hardworking Ohioans have a voice on the court and she will challenge the viewpoints of the other justices.''
On the campaign trial, McGee Brown shared with voters her roots as the daughter of a young mother who bettered herself through education. She attended Ohio State University and received degrees in journalism/public relations and later in law.
She has recently served on the boards of Ohio University, The Ohio State University Medical Center, the Columbus Academy, the Community Shelter Board, M/I Homes Inc. and Fifth Third Bank of Central Ohio.
Strickland appointed Eric Brown last year to fill the vacancy that resulted from the sudden death of Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who had been slated to retire this January due to age limits.
Brown ran into some controversy, however, after the Ohio Republican Party received an anonymous copy of a voicemail in which Brown appeared to be directly soliciting the recipient of the call for a political donation, which is not allowed under judicial rules. Brown said the invitation to a fundraiser that he conveyed in the call did not come with any requirement to give money.
He is the only Democrat currently serving on the court, and lost a bid for chief justice Nov. 2.
An African-American last served on Ohio's high court in the 1970s.
Robert M. Duncan, Ohio's first black justice, served from 1969 to 1971. Lloyd O. Brown served from 1971 to 1973, according to information provided by the court.