James M. Petro ’70
B.A., Denison University
J.D., Case Western Reserve University
Honorary Doctorate of Public Administration, Denison University
Honorary Doctorate of Public Administration, University of Toledo
Citation awarded June, 2010
Jim is an accomplished counselor, litigator, advocate and public officeholder. He was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1973, the U.S. District Court in 1974, The U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001. In 2005, Jim became the first Ohio attorney general to personally argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in nearly 40 years.
From 1974 until he was elected to state office in 1994, Jim practiced law in Cleveland. Nearly the entire time, he was also engaged in public service: prosecuting attorney in Rocky River and Franklin County, city law director in Rocky River, four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives, county commissioner for Cuyahoga County, and assistant law director for Cleveland. In 1995, Jim began his statewide service with his election as Ohio Auditor of State, and, thereafter, election as Attorney General of Ohio. He retired from state office in January 2007.
Peer acknowledgements of Jim’s professional accomplishments are numerous. To cite only a few: he was recognized by the Ohio Chiefs of Police with Legacy and Visionary Leadership awards in 2005 and 2006; in 2000, he received the Ethics in Government and Excellence in Government Finance awards from the U.S. Government Finance Officers Association, as well as Achievement of the Year and the Snodgrass Award for Distinguished Leadership from the National Association of Government Accountants.
Beginning in 2007, Jim focused his pro bono legal activities on the Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. To date, more than 250 people have been exonerated nationwide, including 17 who served time on death row. Jim’s experience with innocence-related cases and reform efforts as Attorney General and thereafter is the subject of False Justice, co-authored with his wife Nancy ’70, to be published in September 2010. Jim is currently managing partner of the Columbus Office of Roetzel & Andress.
For Denison, Jim has volunteered for every one of his class reunions between 1975 and 1995. He has also been a presenter for the Organizational Studies program.