In the upcoming November elections, Ohio voters will decide three of the seven justices on the Supreme Court of Ohio. The outcome of these elections will shape the posture of Ohio’s highest court for years to come and in so doing will also have a critical impact on Ohio’s business climate and its economic future.
The Court has ultimate authority for interpreting state laws – and the issues that come before the Ohio Supreme Court impact education, tax rates, utility bills, jobs, and more. As the Ohio economy slowly recovers in a precarious economic climate, it is critical that Ohioans elect justices who make fair and impartial judgments that don’t stifle economic growth and opportunity.
Current Justices Robert Cupp and Terrence O’Donnell each have a proven history on the Court of being fair arbiters that interpret the law rather than legislating from the bench. The reelection of Justices Cupp and O’Donnell in November will be a critical factor in maintaining the viability of Ohio’s economic recovery.
“A fair and balanced legal system is a key aspect to Ohio’s continuing economic recovery and I urge all of our members to learn about the Ohio Supreme Court candidates this year and vote for those who will protect their interests,” said OOA John F. Ramey, DO.
In races for the Ohio Supreme Court, name recognition is paramount. The general voting public typically is not familiar with the substantive records of the candidates in judicial races. The default often becomes the candidate with the most familiar name to voters. Even though Justice Cupp has been elected to the Court previously and has a long history of public service in elected office, he, like many judicial candidates, still faces the challenge of educating the electorate. This scenario was illustrated in a recent poll from the Columbus Dispatch that showed Justice Cupp trailing his opponent 25% to 13%, with over 60% undecided.
Central to this year’s races will be Justice Cupp’s bid for reelection in which he is being challenged by William O’Neill, currently a registered nurse in the Pediatric Emergency Department of Hillcrest Hospital.
Justice Cupp was first elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in November 2006 after serving on the Ohio Court of Appeals, Third Appellate District. Before becoming a judge, Justice Cupp was a member of the Ohio Senate for 16 years, ending in 2000 due to Ohio’s legislative term limits. Justice Cupp has twice been elected Allen County commissioner and from 1976 to 1980 Justice Cupp served as Lima City Prosecutor and Assistant Director of Law. He co-authored the book, [Legal] Ethics and Discipline in Ohio in 1977.
William O’Neill served on the Eleventh District Court of Appeals from 1997 to 2007. Prior to becoming a judge, he was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Ohio from 1984 to 1996.
In another contested race, incumbent Justice Terrence O’Donnell is being challenged by Michael Skindell, a state senator representing Ohio’s Twenty-Third Senate district and a practicing personal injury trial attorney.
Justice Terrence O’Donnell joined the Court in 2003 after serving on the Eighth District Court of Appeals, to which he was elected in 1994. Prior to the Court of Appeals, Justice O’Donnell served for fourteen years on the Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court, the busiest trial court in Ohio. Justice O’Donnell worked in private practice in Cleveland before beginning his judicial service.
Prior to joining the Ohio Senate, Senator Skindell was a state representative from 2003-2010 and a Lakewood Council Member at Large from 1998-2002. He has been in private practice since 1999 and for ten years prior to that he was a hearing officer for the Ohio Department of Health.
In the final race for the Supreme Court of Ohio, Judge Sharon L. Kennedy is challenging Justice Yvette McGee Brown, who was appointed to the Court in December 2010 by then Governor Ted Strickland. The vacancy was created when sitting Justice Maureen O’Connor left her seat on the Court to run for the Chief Justice post. This will be Justice McGee Brown’s first attempt at election to the Court.
Judge Kennedy serves on the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, to which she was first elected in 1998. She has served as Administrative Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division since 2005. Prior to her election to the bench, Judge Kennedy worked in private practice and served as Special Counsel for Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery. Judge Kennedy began her career as a police officer in the City of Hamilton.
Justice McGee Brown was elected to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations and Juvenile Division in 1992. Justice McGee Brown served on the Common Pleas Court until 2002 when she left the bench to create the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Over the last several Ohio Supreme Court elections, significant progress has been made to improve the state’s civil justice environment. Ohio has developed an environment that reasonably protects employers from costly lawsuits while truly injured parties have recourse to appropriate measures of justice. The widely respected Pacific Research Institute (PRI) publishes a Tort Liability index; PRI recognizes Ohio as a state with relatively low monetary tort losses and or/few litigation risks.
With three of the seven seats on the Court up for election, the ideology of the Court will be significantly impacted in November. Ohio voters are urged to protect the important economic advantage of a reasonable civil justice system by casting wise votes for Supreme Court candidates.
What Do Business Leaders Say About Supreme Court Elections
The 2002 election marked a dramatic shift in the philosophical position of the Ohio Supreme Court, creating a Court that provides objective, reasoned and impartial interpretations of Ohio law. Since then, Ohio’s judicial environment has been stable and predictable. However, we must guard against candidates with activist philosophies to ensure our state’s highest court does not revert back to an activist majority, which existed prior to 2002 and resulted in rulings that changed Ohio laws to the detriment of businesses of all types and sizes.
The races for state Supreme Court will have a direct impact on Ohio’s competitiveness for jobs and the economy. When our judiciary takes their role beyond interpreting laws, and creates new laws with their rulings, we all pay and we all lose.
For this reason many leading voices in our state’s business community have evaluated the candidates’ qualifications and are offering support for the candidates they believe will better protect and grow Ohio’s economy.
Justices Cupp and O’Donnell have each consistently shown the ability to judge according to facts and precedents and have strong track records of fairly assessing cases according to existing law. Both Justices have received the favor of business groups from a variety of industries and regions throughout Ohio including the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Society of CPAs, the Ohio State Medical Association, the Ohio Restaurant Association, the National Federation of Independent Business – Ohio, and others.
Distinguishing the race between Justice McGee Brown and Judge Kennedy may be more difficult for many Ohio voters due to the appointment of Justice McGee Brown to the high court.
Each candidate has a long tenure as a judge on a domestic relations division of an Ohio court and each has garnered a wide variety of endorsements from interest groups.
The Ohio Osteopathic Association urges its members to support the elections of Justice Robert Cupp and Justice Terrence O’Donnell to the Ohio Supreme Court, both of whom have demonstrated a commitment to serving Ohioans in a fair and impartial manner. The election of those two sitting Justices will go a long way in maintaining the stability and predictability of the Court.
Be sure to vote and help educate your friends, family, co-workers, customers, suppliers, etc of the importance of these races.