Ohio Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell receives St. Thomas More Award
“What do our lives have in common?” asked Bishop Nelson Perez as he addressed members of the Lawyers Guild of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland during the annual Red Mass on Oct. 20 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
The bishop said he pondered that thought as he prepared for his homily, and decided the link could be summarized in one word: service.
“We’re called to service,” he said. “And with that comes authority.”
He said judges must make decisions, which he described as a mixed bag. “Sometimes people are happy with your decision; sometimes they’re not.”
Those in the legal profession, much like those in the service of the Church, encounter people at some crucial times in their lives. “We can walk with them in moments of great joy. We are also reconcilers; we encounter the human spirit,” he said.
“When I look in the mirror in the morning, I don’t see the bishop of Cleveland; I see Nelson. And when I watch the morning news, I know a lot of that reality ends up before you,” Bishop Perez said.
He recalled a time when two drug dealers shot each other to death in New York. “They belonged to the same parish – not that they were at the Holy Name meeting,” he said, adding they had separate funerals and were buried from the same church.
“Administering justice and compassion at the same time is not an easy task. Like you, I ask myself how to deal with that,” the bishop said, adding that he turned to Pope Francis for advice. He said the pope talked about service and responsibility. The source of strength comes from renewing an encounter with Jesus Christ.
“If you go before the Lord to pray and you can’t, the Holy Father advises that you stay a while,” the bishop said, adding, “no one should be excluded from the joy of the Lord.” He said prayer is a great consolation.
“Pope Francis tells us it’s necessary to instill a spirit – it’s about changing hearts, learning to live differently,” he said. “You and I are called to serve in different capacities for the common good. We are called to serve with a loving heart.”
After Mass, many of the judges and lawyers attended a lunch for the legal community at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell received the St. Thomas More Award from the Lawyers Guild at the luncheon. The prestigious award honors the patron saint of lawyers and is presented annually to a distinguished member of the legal community for contributing to high ethical standards and spiritual growth in the practice of law.
A former teacher at St. Brendan School in North Olmsted, O’Donnell is a founding member and past president of the Legal Eagles, a law fraternity for alumni of St. Edward High School in Lakewood. In 2005, O’Donnell received the St. Edward Alumnus of the Year Award. He is a member of the Ohio State Bar Foundation Fellows Class of 2005, a past member of the Magnificat High School board of trustees and the Lawyers Guild board of trustees.
O’Donnell earned his undergraduate degree from Kent State University and his law degree from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law. He was in private practice before beginning his judicial service in 1980 on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. He was elected to the Eighth District Court of Appeals in 1994 and has served on the Ohio Supreme Court since 2003. He was instrumental in implementing a nationally acclaimed lawyer to lawyer mentoring program.
O’Donnell served as chairman of the Ohio Legal Rights Service Commission, which oversees the protection and advocacy of the developmentally disabled and mentally ill statewide. He also is a past member of the Our Lady of the Wayside board of trustees.
He and his wife, Mary Beth, are parishioners at St. Bernadette in Westlake. They have four children and seven grandchildren.
The Lawyers Guild also presented a special recognition award to radio station AM 1260 The Rock, a lay apostolate that provides quality programming faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.