A retired judge who is running for the Ohio Supreme Court is promoting a proposal for public financing of judicial elections, aimed at avoiding conflicts of interests when judges get campaign money from parties who appear before them.
Former appellate Judge William O’Neill, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Republican Justice Robert R. Cupp, according to a Columbus Dispatch article that that summarizes the contests for three seats on the state’s highest bench. Justice Cupp supports the existing election system and says justices can recuse themselves when faced with a conflict of interest.
O’Neill proposes that judicial candidates who seek public financing would be barred from receiving campaign donations, and would draw on public funds raised through imposition of a $10 fee on each lawsuit filed in the state. Under this plan, state Supreme Court candidates could receive $1 million in public funds.
Justice Cupp responds that people seeking access to the justice system could face a hardship if the $10 fee was imposed, and he questions the fairness of guaranteeing $1 million for a candidate who might be unpopular and unlikely to receive that level of funding otherwise.
In one of the other contests, Justice Yvette McGee Brown, the court’s sole Democrat and African American, is facing a challenge from Sharon Kennedy, a Republican judge on a domestic-relations court.
Justice McGee Brown, who emphasizes diversity and the value of having justices of different backgrounds, would be the first Democrat elected to the court in a dozen years if she wins. She was appointed in January 2010.
Ohio has had some of the nation’s most expensive judicial elections. According to a recent election analysis by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice, in Ohio and also in Alabama, “While both states have led the nation in judicial election spending over the past decade, there has recently been a significant drop in Democratic candidates with strong financial backing as Republicans have taken control of both states’ supreme courts.”