Voter’s Guide: A Look at Ohio Supreme Court Candidates

COLUMBUS — Voters will soon have a chance to determine the future makeup of the Ohio Supreme Court, as three seats on the seven-person court are up for grabs in what will be the first year candidates will see their affiliation with a party listed on the ballot.

The change comes four months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, one of many contentious issues the Ohio Supreme Court will likely be asked to rule on in the coming years as state lawmakers consider abortion restrictions.

The six candidates vying for the posts include four sitting judges – two of whom have filed to replace outgoing Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor – and two appeals court judges.

Candidates for Chief Justice

Jennifer Brunner: Brunner, a Democrat, was first elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2020.

She spent six years as a judge on the Franklin County Court of Appeals and five years as a judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas before joining the highest court in the state. She became Ohio’s first female secretary of state in 2006.

Brunner, who pledged not to accept campaign contributions from public utilities after the House Bill 6 corruption scandal, describes herself as a “stubborn defender of judicial independence.”

She has supported efforts to make courts more accessible through remote hearings, to ensure that transgender people have access to legal records that reflect their gender identity, and to “eradicate systemic racism” in the justice system through initiatives such as bail reform, criminal conviction databases and sentencing reform, according to his campaign website.

“When the democratic rule of law works well, there is security, predictability and sometimes an environment where people can pursue happiness and imagine and write their own future stories,” she said. Told the Ohio Bar Association. “Courts are at the center of it all, and lawyers help make the rule of law work in that environment. I am dedicated to a sound rule of law that earns the respect of those who have consented to be governed.

Sharon kennedy: Kennedy, a Republican, was first elected to the state High Court in 2012.

Kennedy began his career as an officer for the Hamilton Police Department, then transitioned into a legal career that included 12 years as a judge and administrative judge for the Butler County Court of Common Pleas.

Kennedy, who also supports efforts to expand virtual hearings, describes his judicial philosophy as one of judicial restraint.

“Courts have the power to declare laws unconstitutional and to review the actions of other branches of government and administrative agencies and determine whether their actions are within constitutional authority… But the courts do not have the power to power to enact laws or to direct the General Assembly to enact specific legislation”, Kennedy Told the Ohio Bar Association.

“And the courts, while having the power of contempt, do not have the enforcement powers conferred on the executive.”

The governor will appoint a replacement judge to succeed the winner of the race for chief judge.

Supreme Court nominees

Pat DeWine: DeWine, a Republican and outgoing justice, is in his first term as a Supreme Court justice.

The former appeals court judge, who spent four years on the First District Court of Appeals and four years as a judge on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, describes his judicial philosophy as one of to interpret and not to make the law.

“I share the view that judges do not receive a broad commission to solve the problems of society as they see them, but rather to decide the cases before them in accordance with the rule of law,” he said. he declared. Told the bar.

And regarding the court’s role in the political process, DeWine said the court’s role is limited as long as lawmakers, the governor and others “act within their constitutional limits.”

“If another branch of government violates the individual rights guaranteed by our constitutional system or exceeds the powers granted by our constitution, then it is appropriate for the judiciary to intervene to enforce constitutional guarantees,” he wrote. “A court, however, should be careful not to infringe on the constitutional duties of other, more democratic branches of government.”

Marilyn Zayas: Zayas, a Democrat, has served as an appellate judge on the First District Court of Appeals since 2016, becoming the first elected Latino judge to serve on an Ohio appeals court.

Zayas previously served on the Supreme Court as a visiting judge in 2018.

“You can be sure that I will faithfully apply the law and our constitution to all, regardless of outside influences and politics,” Zayas said on his campaign website.

Zayas expressed support for reform efforts such as the court’s sentencing database and bail reform.

“The independence and integrity of the judiciary is essential for the courts to serve as a safeguard of our constitutional rights and privileges, prevent executive and legislative encroachment on our rights, and ensure equal protection for all,” she said. Told the Bar in response to the court’s role in the political process.

Tap Fischer: Fischer, a Republican and incumbent judge, is serving his first term on the Supreme Court after serving six years as an appeals court judge for the First District Court of Appeals.

Fischer describes his judicial philosophy as textualism.

“Courts should apply the law, if constitutionality is not in issue, as written in the facts of the case,” he said. Told the bar. “The courts should remain a separate branch of government, leaving legislation to the legislature and execution to the executive.”

Terri Jamison: Jamison, a Democrat, has served as an appellate judge on the Tenth District Court of Appeals since 2021. She spent seven years as a judge on the Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County before joining the Tenth District.

Jamison described his judicial philosophy as focusing on the original intent of the law and the facts of the case.

“It is my philosophy that a judge should not be swayed by public opinion or campaign contributions,” jamisson said on his campaign website, noting that courts should consider the unintended consequences of the legislation.

Jamison expressed support for technology upgrades and reform efforts like Ohio’s Criminal Convictions Database, as well as juvenile detention alternatives.

Regarding the role of the court in politics, Jamison Told the Law Society that “courts should remain above the political fray” and that “courts should never be viewed as partisan entities bent on tipping the scales of justice towards one political party”.

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