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John Waterman Okey

judge , jurist

He was a Democratic judge and legal author in the U.S. State of Ohio and was an Ohio Supreme Court Judge 1878-1885.


Okey, John Waterman was born on January 3, 1827 in Woodsfield, Ohio, United States. Son of Cornelius and Hannah (Weir) Okey.


Okey was tutored privately.

He studied law at Woodsfield, and became Probate Judge and Judge of Common Pleas.


John Waterman Okey’s legal career included 36 years in private practice and service on the Monroe County courts and the Supreme Court of Ohio. Okey’s contemporaries and subsequent legal scholars also knew him for his editorial work in the Digest of Ohio Reports and the Municipal Code, as well as his tenure on the commission formed to revise and draft the Revised Statutes of Ohio.

While working on the commission, Okey was nominated by the Ohio Democratic Party to run for the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1877. He was reelected to his second term in 1882. In 1882, Okey served as chief judge.


  • In 1865, Okey moved to Cincinnati, and with Judge Gholson he wrote Gholson and Okey's Digest of Ohio Reports. He also authored Okey and Miller's Municipal Law with S. A. Miller. During his tenure, Okey drafted 170 written opinions, now found in volumes 34 through 43 of Ohio State Reports. Nine opinions were cited by other courts numerous times and were still cited by Ohio and other state courts in the 20th century.


  • book

    • Gholson and Okey's Digest of Ohio Reports

    • Okey and Miller's Municipal Law

    • Revised Statutes of Ohio


Democratic judge


  • Other Interests

    Compiling of Ohio laws.

    Okey’s drafted opinions represent brief and concise statements of legal principles, similar to those drafted by his fellow judges. They differ, however, in four respects: Okey’s opinions often spoke to issues of statutory interpretation, more than likely due to his extensive knowledge of Ohio statutes gained from his work in compiling digests of Ohio laws. Secondly, Okey’s opinions showed a familiarity with case law of other courts because he often referred to precedents from U.S. federal courts, other American state courts and English common law. Thirdly, his opinions embodied the style of writing of contemporary judges from other states and served as a model for Ohio’s judges and Justices who sought to bring Ohio’s written opinions into harmony with other states. Finally, Okey’s opinions provided his explanation of the Ohio statutes or case law impacted by the case before the Supreme Court. Okey recognized the value of the text of his written opinion was its ability to persuade since the opinion’s syllabus stated the Court’s decision.



Hannah (Weir)

May Jane Bloor

George B. Okey

Joined his father in the practice of law. In 1885, George Okey was appointed reporter for the Supreme Court, editing volumes 43 through 45 of Ohio State Reports. In 1890, he was an unsuccessful Democratic Party candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court.