Judge R. Guy Cole Jr.

2021 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Sixth Circuit

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA–Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. has been selected to receive the prestigious 2021 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Sixth Circuit. A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, he served as the court’s chief judge—and the court’s first-ever African American chief judge—from 2014 until April this year. Nominated by President Bill Clinton, Cole joined the court of appeals in 1995.

“As the chief judge of our circuit, Judge Cole has conducted himself with the highest degree of character and integrity,” write Judge Richard Allen Griffin and his fellow judges on the sixth circuit, who nominated Cole for the award. “In this regard, Guy Cole has led by example, to the betterment of our court and circuit.” According to Griffin and his colleagues, Cole’s accomplishments as chief judge include leading the circuit through the COVID-19 crisis, creating an employee appreciation program, improving the court’s efficiency and professionalism, eliminating the court’s backlog, and reviving the court’s collegiality.

Before joining the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Cole had experience in both public service and the private sector. On the public service side, he served as a U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Southern District of Ohio from 1987 to 1993 and was a trial attorney for the commercial litigation branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, earlier in his career. In the private sector, he was in practice at the Columbus, Ohio, law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, eventually becoming the firm’s first African American partner. Since 2010, Cole has also been an adjunct professor of law at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.

Cole received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Tufts Alumni Association in 2016. He has also helped lead several community organizations focused on health, education, and young people. In addition to serving as vice chair of The Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital Board, he has held leadership positions at the Columbus Children’s Hospital, March of Dimes, YMCA, Columbus Area International Program, and I Know I Can, an initiative that helps public school students in Columbus attain college educations.

Cole received his undergraduate degree from Tufts University in 1972 and his law degree from Yale Law School in 1975.