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Cincinnati Law alumni now fill first all-female Ohio First District Court of Appeals panel


Judge DavisWhen Judge Marilyn Zayas took her seat behind the bench at Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals, she knew she was making history. The Cincinnati Law alumna became the first Latina to be elected to a judicial post in the state of Ohio in last November’s election. 

She and fellow Cincinnati Law alumni Judge Penelope R. Cunningham (‘87) and Judge Beth A. Myers (‘82) now comprise half of the judges on the Southwestern Ohio Appellate Court. They are the only women on the court; and all three won elections to their posts. (Two of the six judges on the court are appointed by the governor.)

“This is a remarkable achievement for Judge Marilyn Zayas and for Cincinnati Law,” said Cincinnati Law Dean Jennifer Bard. “Marilyn’s journey to the bar was not traditional, and she serves as an inspiration to all of us here. We’re honored that she has always made time to support our efforts, and we’re so very proud of all of her accomplishments.”

Judge Zayas, who was born in New York to immigrant parents, earned a degree in computer science at City University of New York, training which helped her land a job with Procter & Gamble. But she carried with her a passion for law, born of her experiences as a teen who saw how the legal system worked when her parents divorced and she grew concerned about the custody and care of her younger brother. 

She left her job as a P&G tech manager to pursue her law degree in 1994; when she studied full-time, she had three children under the age of 4. After graduation, she spent time as a public defender before opening her own firm, MZD Law, in 2000.

While building her firm, Judge Zayas made time to teach students at her alma mater and also volunteered to train judges and magistrates about victims’ advocacy and immigration law. She now serves on the board of Beech Acres Parenting Center.

“Judge Zayas' story is an inspiration to anyone with a commitment to justice,” said Bard. “We could not be more proud of her as an alumna and appreciate her commitment to reaching back and increasing opportunities for the next generation of judges."