YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s been a whirlwind couple of months for the newest member of Ohio’s Supreme Court. Local Appeals Judge Mary DeGenaro was appointed recently to fill an unexpired term as justice — just about six weeks after learning the position was going to be available.
DeGenaro sees this as a chance to show the Valley off to the rest of the state.
“This is the people that I come from. This is the kind of judge I’ve been. I have an opportunity to show you the kind of justice I will be,” she said.
DeGenaro is hoping to do more with her position than simply hear cases. She wants to address problems that impact the entire state.
“I am acutely aware of the social ramifications of the opioid crisis and when you’re a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, you’ve got a platform that gives you an opportunity to speak about these issues,” she said.
Late last month, Governor John Kasich appointed DeGenaro to fill a vacancy left by the now-retired Justice Bill O’Neill. She becomes the first judge from Mahoning County to sit on the Supreme Court since Justice Paul Brown was elected in the mid-60s.
DeGenaro has had her eyes on the high court since 2014 when she started traveling the state, looking to win support from GOP leaders.
“If you do not get the party’s endorsement, you are to stand down,” she said.
That’s what happened two years ago, but then things changed.
“People came to me and encouraged me to think about it in 2018 and after talking with my family and thinking about it, I opted to pursue the party’s endorsement.”
Just as her campaign was getting underway, she learned O’Neill would be stepping down. DeGenaro said she had roughly six weeks to submit her information.
“I think my final application included letters of recommendation, some of my case law and opinions, and I think it was about 150 pages.”
Then in January, she got a call from the governor’s staff, asking her to come in for a final interview.
“Listening to the governor interact with his staff and interact with me, I found that to be a fascinating experience,” DeGenaro said.
For now, she will run to keep her seat — which she’ll hold through the end of the year — and win a full six-year term. DeGenaro will sit in on her first set of cases next week.