Thomas Moyer

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Thomas Moyer
Court Information:
Ohio Supreme Court
Title:   Former Chief Justice
Salary:  $142,000
Active:   1987-2010
Past position:   Judge, Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals
Past term:   1979-1986
Personal History
Born:   4/18/1939
Deceased:   4/2/2010
Party:   Republican
Undergraduate:   Ohio State University
Law School:   Ohio State University

Thomas J. Moyer was the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. He was elected to this position on November 4, 1986 and was re-elected on November 3, 1992, November 3, 1998 and November 2, 2004.[1] Moyer unexpectedly passed away on April 2, 2010.[2][3]


Moyer earned his B.A. in political science from The Ohio State University and received his J.D. from the Ohio State University Mortiz College of Law in 1964.[4]


  • 1987-2010: Chief justice, Ohio Supreme Court
  • 1986: Presiding judge, Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals
  • 1985: Administrative judge, Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals
  • 1979-1986: Judge, Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals
  • 1975-1979: Executive assistant to Governor James A. Rhodes
  • 1972-1975: Attorney, Crabbe, Brown, Jones, Potts & Schmidt
  • 1969-1971: Deputy assistant to the Governor
  • 1966-1969: Attorney in private practice
  • 1968: Referee, Probate Court for Commitments to Columbus State Hospital
  • 1964-1966: Assistant attorney general, Taxation and Workers' Compensation Sections
  • 1964: Admitted to the Ohio BarCite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Awards and associations


  • 2011: The Ohio Judicial Center was named in honor of Justice Moyer[5]
  • 2010: Honorary Doctor of Community Leadership, Franklin University
  • 2009: Founders Award, Ohio Center for Law-Related Education
  • 2009: Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Cleveland State University
  • 2009: President’s Award, Columbus Bar Association
  • 2004: Jurisprudence Award, American ORT Cleveland Chapter
  • 2003: Professional Achievement Award, Ohio State University Alumni Association
  • 2003: James F. Henry Award for exemplary ADR leadership in the state judiciary, CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution
  • 2001: Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award, Columbus Bar Foundation and Association
  • 1998: The Irwin Cantor Award for Innovative Programming, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
  • 1997: Distinguished Service Award, National Center for State Courts
  • 1997: Liberty Bell Award, Columbus Bar Association
  • 1996: Ritter Award, Ohio State Bar Foundation
  • 1993: Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees, The Ohio State University
  • 1990: Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees, The Defiance College
  • 1991: Ohio Bar Medal, Ohio State Bar Association
  • 1991: Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees, Miami University
  • 1989: Herbert Harley Award for improving the administration of justice in Ohio, American Judicature Society
  • 1989: Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees, Akron University
  • 1987: 40 Outstanding Alumni, The Ohio State University
  • 1969: Outstanding Young Man of Columbus, Columbus Jaycees[4]


  • 1995-1996: President, Conference of Chief Justices
  • Vice chair, Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center
  • Chair, Task Force on Politics and Judicial Selection, Conference of Chief Justices
  • Co-chair, Conference of Chief Justices Committee on Emergency Preparedness in the Courts
  • Member, Ohio State and Columbus Bar Association
  • Member, Board of Trustees, National Conference of Chief Justices
  • Member, Committee of the Institute of Judicial Administration
  • Co-chair, American Bar Association Task Force to Develop a Model Mediation Law
  • Member, Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference[4]

Campaign finances

As of 2004, Moyer had accumulated $1,489,541 to date for campaigns.[6]

Specifically for the 2004 race, lawyers and lobbyists gave the most with donations totaling $426,962, or 28.66%, of the contributions.

  • Finance, insurance and real estate gave $310,133 (20.82%)
  • Health gave $185,844 (12.48%)
  • General business gave $118,849 (7.98%)
  • The Republican Party gave $111,372 (7.48%)
  • Energy and natural resources gave $77,215 (5.18%)
  • Other/retiree/civil servants gave $38,540 (2.59%)
  • Agriculture gave $31,230 (2.10%)
  • Construction gave $22,275 (1.50%)
  • Transportation gave $11,621 (0.78%)
  • Communications and electronics gave $7,245 (0.49%)
  • Labor gave $3,500 (0.23%)

Foreclosure assistance

In 2008, Governor Ted Strickland, Justice Moyer and several other state officials announced the addition of a legal component to the Save the Dream initiative, an effort created to connect homeowners facing foreclosure with counselors and nearby assistance. The legal addition to the initiative was aimed at helping those requiring foreclosure assistance who can't afford a lawyer.[7]

Spending on judicial contests

Moyers served on the board of Justice at Stake, and was opposed to campaign spending on judicial elections. "Human nature is that we help people if they help us," Moyer said. "And that's the problem with this system."[8][9]



Candidate IncumbentSeatPartyElection %
Thomas Moyer ApprovedA YesMoyer SeatRepublican53.2%
C. Ellen Connally NoMoyer SeatDemocratic46.8%

Notable cases

Contract enforcement

  • J.F. v. D.B., 2007

In a 4-3 decision, the majority opinion, written by Justice Pfeifer, concluded over the vigorous dissents of Justices O'Donnell, Lanzinger, and Cupp, that a contract to pay a woman $20,000 to serve as a surrogate mother was not unconscionable or otherwise "void by public policy" and was therefore enforceable. The majority noted "a lack of a declared public policy for or against surrogacy contracts," and reasoned in a manner greatly deferential to the freedom of adults to enter into contracts, observing that "a written contract defining rights and obligations of the parties seems an appropriate way to enter into surrogacy agreement. If the parties understand their contract rights, requiring them to honor the contract they entered into is manifestly right and just."[10]

  • Preferred Capital, Inc. v. Power Engineering Group, Inc. (2007)

In a 5-2 decision, the majority opinion written by Justice Moyer (Justice Paul E. Pfeifer concurred) invalidated a contract with a clause that made the forum for bringing a lawsuit under the contract dependent upon the principal place of business of the party to whom the contract was assigned, in the event that it would be assigned. In doing so, the majority acknowledged that there was no evidence of fraud, that the parties, both business entities, read and understood the agreement, and that enforcing the clause wouldn't deprive either of the parties of their day in court. However, the majority found that the clause was "unreasonable" because of a "strong public policy of not haling individuals into foreign jurisdictions without their knowing waiver." The majority opinion was strongly dissented by Justices Lundberg Stratton and Judith Ann Lanzinger.[11]

Criminal justice

  • State v. Colon, 2008

In a 4-3 decision, the majority opinion, written by Justice Moyer, concluded over the vigorous dissents of Justices O'Donnell, Lanzinger, and Lundberg Stratton, that the prosecution's failure to allege in the indictment that the defendant had the specific mental state necessary to be convicted for robbery was a "structural error," i.e. an error that deprived the defendant of one of his constitutional rights. Thus any conviction of the defendant could not stand, even though the defendant failed to object to the error prior to trial. The majority noted that "if one of the vital and material elements identifying and characterizing the crime has been omitted from the indictment, such a procedure would allow a court to convict him on an indictment essentially different from that found by the grand jury," and that "the state must meet its duty to properly indict a defendant, and we will not excuse the state's error at the cost of a defendant's longstanding constitutional right to a property indictment." Thus, that "a defendant can challenge for the first time on appeal an indictment that omits an essential element of the crime, protects defendants' right to a grand jury indictment," because "the Founders thought the grand jury so essential to basic liberties that they provided in the Fifth Amendment that federal prosecution for serious crimes can only be instituted by a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury."[12]

  • State v. Lowe (2007)

Justice Lanzinger wrote the majority opinion, over the strident and lengthy dissent of Justice Pfeifer, which interpreted the Ohio statute on incest, and specifically the word "stepchild," in such a manner that resulted in the conviction, imprisonment, and designation as a sexually-oriented offender of a man who had sexual relations with a 22-year-old adult who was his legal stepdaughter. Further, the court distinguished this case from the U.S. Supreme Court's finding, in Lawrence v. Texas, that a statutory prohibition on homosexual sodomy was unconstitutional. In reaching these conclusions, the majority offered the following rationales:

  • "The plain language of [the statute] clearly prohibits sexual conduct with one's stepchild while the stepparent-stepchild relationship exists. It makes no exception for consent of the stepchild or the stepchild's age."
  • "Although the statute does indeed protect minor children from adults with authority over them, it also protects the family unit more broadly."
  • Although the defendant claimed that the statute was unconstitutional as applied to consensual sexual conduct between adults related only by affinity, the majority held that "Lowe's claimed liberty interest in sexual activity with his stepdaughter is not a fundamental right ."
  • "Using the rational-basis test, we conclude that, as applied in this case, Ohio's statute serves the legitimate state interest of protecting the family unit and family relationships."
  • "Ohio has a tradition of acknowledging the “importance of maintaining the family unit. A sexual relationship between a parent and child or a stepparent and stepchild is especially destructive to the family unit. R.C. 2907.03(A)(5) was designed to protect the family unit by criminalizing incest in Ohio. Stepchildren and adopted children have been included as possible victims of the crime of incest because society is concerned with the integrity of the family, including step and adoptive relationships as well as blood relationships, and sexual activity is equally disruptive, whatever the makeup of the family."
  • "'As the traditional family unit has become less and less traditional, the legislature wisely recognized that the parental role can be assumed by persons other than biological parents, and that sexual conduct by someone assuming that role can be just as damaging to a child.' This reasoning applies not only to minor children, but to adult children as well. Moreover, parents do not cease being parents-whether natural parents, stepparents, or adoptive parents-when their minor child reaches the age of majority."
  • "Accordingly, as applied in this case, R.C. 2907.03(A)(5) bears a rational relationship to the legitimate state interest in protecting the family, because it reasonably advances its goal of protection of the family unit from the destructive influence of sexual relationships between parents or stepparents and their children or stepchildren. If Lowe divorced his wife and no longer was a stepparent to his wife's daughter, the stepparent-stepchild relationship would be dissolved. The statute would no longer apply in that case."[13]

Elections law

In a 6-1 decision, the majority opinion written by Justice Moyer decided in a case brought by a voter to force his local government to place an issue on the ballot that would have forced the village government to surrender its powers. The opinion was written over the ardent dissent of Justice Lundberg Stratton. After the voter collected enough signatures to do so, the village government refused to certify the issue for the ballot. The voter brought an action approximately 5 months prior to the election that would have forced the local government to do so.

The majority held that because the date of the election had passed while the voter's case languished in court, the case was now moot, and should be dismissed. The majority further held that the voter did not act diligently enough in pursuing his legal claim where he "waited two and one-half months after filing the mandamus action to request expedited consideration." The court closed by noting a reluctance to issue advisory opinions.[14]

Family law

In a 5-2 decision, the majority opinion, written by Justice Lanzinger, concluded that "[Ohio law] does not permit a parent's fundamental right to raise his or her child to be terminated based on mental retardation alone," and that "when determining the best interest of a child, at a permanent-custody hearing, a trial court may not base its decision solely on the limited cognitive abilities of the parent." The majority reasoned that courts should instead consider factors such as the parent's relationship with the child, whether they had ever harmed the child, and where the child wished to live. The court decided that there was no evidence to indicate that the child "lacked adequate clothing, food, shelter, or care," while he "performed well in school and displayed appropriate behavior.[15]

Government accountability

Justice O'Connor authored the majority opinion, which held, over the strident and lengthy dissents of Justices Lundberg Stratton, Moyer, and O'Donnell, that before the state government may fire a government employee to enhance agency efficiency, it must demonstrate, through evidence, that eliminating the employee's position enhances efficiency. Specifically, the majority held that "the Department of Administrative Services did not meet its burden of establishing that efficiency was the reason for the abolishment."[16]

Gun rights

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Moyer, upheld, over the divergent concurrences of Justices Lundberg Stratton, Pfeifer, and O'Donnell, the conviction of an Ohio man charged with carrying a concealed handgun. The man had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and immediately advised the officer who initiated the traffic stop that he had an unloaded handgun and a loaded magazine together in a closed case. The majority specifically upheld the conviction because "the ammunition must be located in such a place that it cannot be readily loaded into the firearm." The court reasoned as follows:

  • "There are three other means by which Davis could have transported the handgun without violating the statute. The unloaded gun could have been in plain sight on a gun rack; outside the passenger compartment of his vehicle; or in plain sight, stripped or with the action open. Davis chose to have the unloaded weapon in a closed box at his feet. That action alone complied [would not be a crime] unless the weapon was “ready at hand.” It was Davis's decision to include a loaded magazine in the closed box, in close proximity to the handgun and himself, that caused Davis to be in violation of [the applicable statute]."
  • [The defendant's] conviction turns on whether his unloaded firearm and ammunition were in such proximity as to make the weapon “ready at hand.”
  • Defining “ready at hand” requires more than a simple distance formulation; e.g., that two feet from the firearm is ready at hand while three feet from it is not. Rather, it is a factual determination based upon the location of the weapon, the type of weapon, and the location and configuration of the ammunition. “ ‘Ready at hand’ means so near as to be conveniently accessible and within immediate physical reach.”
  • Here, the trial court determined that a loaded magazine, in the same unlocked box as a semiautomatic handgun, located at the defendant's feet was conveniently accessible and within immediate physical reach as to support a finding that the handgun was ready at hand. [W]e will not upset that finding.[17]

See also

External links


  1. The League of Women Voters, "Thomas J. Moyer profile," September 13, 2004
  2. The Plain Dealer, "Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer died unexpectedly," April 2, 2010
  3. Politics Extra, "Justice Pfeifer interim chief," April 4, 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Supreme Court of Ohio, "Thomas J. Moyer Biography," accessed March 14, 2014
  5. The Columbus Dispatch, "Ohio Judicial Center to be named for late chief justice," October 31, 2011
  6. National Institute on Money in State Politics, "Follow the Money, Moyer, Thomas J." accessed March 14, 2014
  7. Columbia Business First, "State adds free legal aid to foreclosure prevention effort," April 1, 2008
  8. National Public Radio, "Report: Spending on Judicial Elections Soaring," May 18, 2007
  9. Metropolitan News-Enterprise, "Witnesses Tell Panel Politics Threatens Judges’ Independence," July 15, 2008
  10. Ohio Supreme Court, "J.F. v. D.B., 116 Ohio St.3d 363, 2007-Ohio-6750," December 20, 2007
  11. Ohio Supreme Court, "Preferred Capital, Inc. v. Power Engineering Group, Inc., 112 Ohio St.3d 429, 2007-Ohio-257," February 7, 2007
  12. Ohio Supreme Court, "State v. Colon, 2008-Ohio-4940," April 9, 2008
  13. Ohio Supreme Court, "The State of Ohio, Appellee, v. Lowe, Appellant," February 28, 2007
  14. Ohio Supreme Court, "State ex rel. Todd v. Felger," 2007
  15. Ohio Supreme Court, "In re D.A., 113 Ohio St.3d 88, 2007-Ohio-1105," March 28, 2007
  16. Ohio Supreme Court, "Penrod v. Ohio Dept. of Adm. Servs.,113 Ohio St.3d 239, 2007-Ohio-1688," April 25, 2007
  17. Ohio Supreme Court, "State vs. Davis NO. 2006-0826," October 3, 2007