Race for high court boils down to judicial philosophy

By Greg Sowinski - gsowinski@civitasmedia.com

LIMA — Ask most Ohioans to name the four candidates on the ballot for Ohio Supreme Court and there may just be silence.

Most probably would struggle to name one, let alone all four. Only the really savvy voter who does the research or the voter who has a good memories could probably name the four.

Yet the Ohio Supreme Court is important to business as well as individuals. It sets the tone for deciding laws that affect business and could affect whether businesses expand or move to Ohio.

As important as it is, the race doesn’t get the attention it deserves even during a presidential election year with most Americans not happy with the two primary party candidates.

By the time candidates reach the level of running for the Ohio Supreme Court and have won a primary election, experience is not an issue. Most have been attorneys for decades.

The question that should be on voters’ minds is what does that experience mean.

Democrat Judge Cynthia Rice has been on the 11th District Court of Appeals since 2003 but a statement she made about the Constitution being “a living, breathing document” made some people cringe because the statement often is associated with judges who are accused of legislating from the bench when they disagree with existing law.

Republican Judge Pat DeWine, who sits on the 1st District Court of Appeals and is competing against Rice, said he believes in fair application of the law. He said it is not the job of a judge to legislate from the bench.

“I believe you apply the law based on the plain language of the document,” DeWine said.

In the race for the other open seat on the court, Republican Pat Fisher is facing Democrat John O’Donnell.

Fischer has a strong résumé that began with graduating from Harvard University as an undergrad and then law school. He was a successful and sought-after attorney handling civil cases when he decided he had made more than enough money to live on and wanted to do something greater for society.

Fisher ran for the 1st District Court of Appeals and won. Now he wants to take his talents to the state’s highest court. He believes in strict interpretation of the law, not legislating from the bench.

O’Donnell does not consider himself a political person saying about as political as he gets is voting in each election. He said he tries to keep an open mind on every case that comes before him including tough ones such as when he acquitted an officer of felony charges for his role in a 2012 police chase that ended with 137 shots fired.

By Greg Sowinski


Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.

Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.