Style Q&A: Jaiza N. Page on Becoming a Judge

Sherry Beck Paprocki
Columbus Monthly
Jaiza N. Page

On Jan. 3, former Columbus City Council member Jaiza N. Page will begin her new gig after being elected a judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A graduate of the Columbus School for Girls, she attended Georgetown University and Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Given all the black robes she’ll soon be wearing, we caught up with her to ask a few questions.

As an attorney, why did you decide to enter politics?

When I was 8 years old I decided that I wanted to be an attorney because I wanted to help people. At that time, my thoughts on life were pretty simple. Lawyers helped people and I always wanted to help people, so I wanted to be an attorney. But also, I believed that the legal training I received and the experience I gained as an assistant city attorney for Columbus gave me a very unique perspective of the issues facing our residents and how to solve those problems.

Was it a difficult decision to leave your position as a Columbus City Council member?

It was a difficult decision and I thought about it for a few weeks before ultimately deciding that I wanted to run for the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. I enjoyed serving Columbus as a member of city council and I have had an amazing past four years; however, I had a desire to not only continue to serve this community but to make an impact from the judicial branch. I believe that the relationships that I’ve established and the work that I’ve done over the past four years on City Council will help me immensely on the bench. It is a bitter sweet departure but I am very excited about my new opportunity to serve the residents of Franklin County.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment while on City Council?

I am most proud of the work my team and I have done to raise awareness of the affordable housing and eviction issues in our city. With the support of my council colleagues, we have been able to offer non-profits a maximum grant of $20,000 to rehabilitate houses in the community and provide additional affordable housing. Also, I’ve hosted a series of eviction prevention workshops across the city that helped tenants learn not only their rights but also their responsibilities. With Columbus NextGen, the Legal Aid Society, Columbus Mediation Services, Franklin County Job and Family Services, the Urban League and Impact Community Action we were able to help individuals and families stay in their homes.

What are the most difficult style challenges that you’ve had to deal with as a professional woman

Although I love a good pair of sneakers and casual clothing, I don’t mind dressing professionally. Growing up, I watched my mom wear suits everyday and she has been my greatest role model in navigating my fashion and any style challenges. As a young professional, I have had to figure out where I could buy business attire that was comfortable, affordable, professional and trendy. I have the traditional black and navy pant and skirt suits but sometimes I want to mix things up a bit and wear an orange or red bottom with a blouse and blazer. So it’s been [challenging] finding the appropriate times when I can really add my personal touch to what I’m wearing for the day. In the courtroom you will usually find me in a suit, with a solid colored blouse and solid colored pumps. On other days, I may wear a nice dress with fun heels. For me, my most difficult challenge was finding that space where I was comfortable in what I was wearing.

Have you created solutions to simplify those challenges?  If so, can you share some of your tips?First, I think you have to find a few brands that fit your personality. It is important to feel comfortable and confident in whatever you’re wearing. Also, don’t be afraid to find one or two style mentors. I have a few women whose fashion I admire and I frequently ask their advice on different clothing items, especially for public appearances. Lastly, you don’t have to totally overhaul your wardrobe once your become a professional. Start off with a couple of suits and add different accessories, blouses and shoes to make the suit look totally different. Take your time to find your personal style.

Are there inaugural events when one becomes a judge?

New Judges have to attend courses held by the Ohio Supreme Court, [a sort of] new judges orientation. Other than that, each judge has to hit the ground running the first day of the term. Since we’re talking about fashion, judges are pretty standard: Black robes.

I once spent a day talking with young women who had recently joined the Ohio Bar. Our conversation was about their personal brands, as attorneys. We had a long conversation about appropriate clothing to wear during public appearances and, especially, while riding in a parade on the back of a convertible. Have you had to grapple with such issues in your public life?

I have had to grapple with what I am going to wear at a public appearance, especially in the summer time. No one wants to wear a suit in a parade on a 90-degree day. So, I decided to go with casual dresses and sandals or canvas sneakers. I’ve been told that I have a “youthful appearance” so many times I take that into consideration when picking my attire and even my hairstyles for public appearances. I usually walk during the parades so that I can interact with the attendees but if you want to ride on a convertible, I suggest a nice pair of capris and a cool top.

As a professional, what are some lessons that you’ve learned in the last six months that you would share with others who may be considering whether they will run for public office?

  1. Be comfortable with yourself. Everyone will have their own opinions about everything such as what you should wear or how you should cut your hair. Take those into consideration but ultimately you are the candidate and you should feel comfortable and confident. Otherwise, the insecurities will be apparent.
  2. Find a small group of people who have your best interests in mind. Their support will lift you on tough days.
  3. Never give up. If you want to be a public official, start planning now and keep pushing until you achieve your dream.