Justice Melody Stewart just became the first African-American elected to the Ohio Supreme Court. Raised by a single mother in the Hough neighborhood, Stewart always wanted to learn as much as she could. She had a thirst for knowledge. Being a supreme court justice has special significance for her because " for people to see a woman of color at the highest level of our judiciary says that just might have a certain meaning to African-American girls and people from our community," says Stewart.
Stewart has had a long and successful legal career, but she will tell you that the love of her life is music. She says it's her best friend. Stewart earned her undergraduate degree in music from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and is also a classically trained pianist. Upon graduation she got a job at a healthcare staffing company that would later introduce her to a career in law. The Vice-President of the company was attending law school part time and Stewart would flip through his law books and thought it was interesting. So she applied to law school and was accepted to the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University.
In 2006 Stewart was elected to an unexpired term to the eighth district court of appeals. But then in 2018, she made a decision to run for the Ohio Supreme Court. Stewart says she felt it was her responsibility to do so. "I think we can be better in our judiciary, we can be more efficient, we can more effective. I'm happy that I gained a good reputation as an appellate court judge in that the decisions I render and write are well organized, understandable, and not disrespectful of people or party."
When asked how her race and gender will play a part in the voice that she will give the court, Stewart says, "My background as an African-American woman growing up in a single mother home in the Hough area of Cleveland. I mean that's a perspective that none of my colleagues have. And from the visual aspect, being someone of color on the bench and being from a different part, I think it lends more confidence in the judiciary for more people in our state when the bench is a little more diverse and and more representative of the people of our state."
Justice Stewart has something else her colleagues can't claim. The King, Lebron James, was one of the first people to congratulate her on her win via twitter. But Stewart's biggest fan was her mother, who passed away 19 years ago. As part of her swearing in ceremony speech, she read an open letter to her mom. Stewart said, "You consistently told me to always try to leave a place better off than what it was when I got there. I hope you know that I have endeavored to live that mantra, and that I will continue to do so in this role."