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Court Names Ohio Judicial Center in Honor of Justice Moyer

The Ohio Judicial Center will be named in honor of the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who served the second-longest period as top state jurist in Ohio’s history. The state Supreme Court approved the new name for the Judicial Center.

Justice Moyer, according to a Columbus Dispatch article, “is credited with making Ohio’s court system more open and responsive to the public, and bringing greater professionalism, discipline and accountability to the practice of law.” Justice Moyer was a founding member of Justice at Stake’s board of directors.

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Honoring Justice Moyer

The flags flew at half-staff in Columbus today to honor Thomas Moyer, who died recently in the final months of his final term, after 23 years as chief justice (see Gavel Grab). The line of mourners spilled out of the Ohio Judicial Center on to the sidewalk, waiting in the cold—38 degrees and gusty—to pay their respects.

Inside the courtroom, a black robe was draped over the chief justice’s chair. Moyer’s wife and family received visitors as the other justices stood nearby. A modest casket, swathed with an Ohio flag, sat up front, just past the railing.

I had come out of admiration and fondness. Justice Moyer was a founding member of Justice at Stake’s board of directors. He relished working for fair courts (“it was his passion,” one judge told me in line). Despite his high perch, Justice Moyer tended to board matters large and small, sending the occasional ‘Thank you’ or ‘Good job’ that showed that yes, he was reading all those e-mails.

At board meetings and national events, Justice Moyer’s was typically the gentlest voice in the room. He never wanted to pull rank, and never needed to. “When I was growing up,” his son Drew told me today, “the lesson he taught was that no matter how famous you are, you only put on your pants one leg at a time.”

Indeed, what struck me was how a variety of people from the legal world—magistrates, specialty court officials, attorneys from the solicitor general’s office—told me the same story. Each was surprised and gratified at how a chief justice could be so conscientious and attentive to his or her issues.

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Tribute to Justice Moyer is Recommended

To honor Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who died last week (see Gavel Grab), the state’s governor is recommending the renaming of the Ohio state Supreme Court building after him.

“It was a building that he loved, that he worked so hard to have restored,” Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said, according to an article in ABA Journal.

Meanwhile the Cleveland Morning Journal published an editorial calling for removal of politics from the appointment of a successor to Justice Moyer. He championed for years the appointment, rather than election, of individuals to state judicial posts, the editorial noted.

It urged that Strickland keep the court at a reduced size for the remainder of the year, until after an already scheduled election to fill Justice Moyer’s seat, or appoint a true “caretaker” chief justice “who won’t turn such an important appointment into a political springboard.”

Justice Moyer was a founding member of Justice at Stake’s board of directors.

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'Justice for Sale' on 'Bill Moyers Journal'

“Justice for Sale” is the topic of tonight’s “Bill Moyers Journal,” which revisits a topic first explored on the show in 1999. The show’s web site discusses the program, citing data from the Justice at Stake web site. In addition, Moyers has authored a column in Huffington Post that quotes Justice at Stake, called “What Are We Bid for American Justice?”

According to the preview, the show will look at three states highlighted in the 1999 Moyers report: Texas, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. And the program will include discussions of Citizens United:

According to retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, of all the fallout from the Citizens United decision, the most dangerous may be in judicial elections. These often low-profile affairs have become extraordinarily expensive in recent years, as interest groups have sought to shape the court in their favor by electing judges who share their views. With 87% of state judges facing election, the Citizens United case could have profound effects on the nation’s court system.

The program will air at 9 p.m. in the Washington, D.C., area. To find the broadcast time in your area, click here. To see the full preview article, click here.

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Commentary: Has Corporate America Slashed Access to Justice?

Thousands of Americans no longer have access to justice when it comes to suing corporations, after a conservative legal movement has pushed hard for judicial restraint and a corporate lobby has pressed for “tort reform,” Lina Kahn of the New America Foundation writes at Washington Monthly. Kahn says:

“Two recent US Supreme Court rulings — AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant have deeply undercut … centuries-old public rights, by empowering businesses to avoid any threat of private lawsuits or class actions. The decisions culminate a thirty-year trend during which the judiciary, including initially some prominent liberal jurists, has moved to eliminate courts as a means for ordinary Americans to uphold their rights against companies. The result is a world where corporations can evade accountability and effectively skirt swaths of law, pushing their growing power over their consumers and employees past a tipping point.” Read more

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Moyers Report: Death of N.C. Public Financing Part of Rightward March

A rightward march by North Carolina’s legislature in 2013, including its killing a popular and successful program for public financing of judicial elections, continues to capture national news media attention and analysis.

The public financing program was a pioneering reform to protect courts from special interest influence, and it became a model for other states.

A Moyers and Co. report on what it called the “North Carolina takeover” as a result of a Republican supermajority in the legislature and a Republican governor attributed the death of public financing of judicial elections in significant part to opposition by Art Pope, the state budget director. He has been described as the “architect of the conservative takeover.” Read more

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Moyers Warns of Danger to Fair Courts; Program Cites JAS

Veteran newsman and commentator Bill Moyers has cast a national spotlight on groups spending millions of dollars to pressure judges to bend to partisan agendas in America.

In addition, his “Moyers and company” website, urging “Help Keep Our Courts Impartial,” prominently featured Justice at Stake for its mission to protect fair courts and for its resources. These included a JAS YouTube channel with judicial election ads and JAS website data about state judicial selection and also about momentous U.S. Supreme Court rulings affecting judicial elections spending.

On his weekend show, Moyers introduced his concerns this way:

“In case you haven’t noticed, something’s afoot with our judicial system. Across the country, large sums of money – much of it secret – are pouring into the races for high court judges. And in several states, partisan groups with funds from undisclosed sources are out to punish justices for rulings the partisans don’t like.”

Turning to a Republican and social conservative ouster drive mounted against retention of Justice David Wiggins in Iowa, Moyers continued:

“Iowa is often a bellwether state for national politics. So when out-of-state partisans and out-of-state money combine to try and take down and take apart a highly esteemed court in the heartland, you never know who’s next.” Read more

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Ohio Justice Denies Political Money and Ruling Are Linked

The Columbus Dispatch has reported that Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Cupp, a Republican candidate for re-election, denied violating any ethical standards when a party in a case before him donated to his campaign. The party is Ohio Edison, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., which gave to Justice Cupp’s campaign through its political-action committee.

Justice Cupp’s statements were in response to those of his Democratic opponent’s, retired Judge William M. O’Neill from the 11th District Court of Appeals. Judge O’Neill accused Justice Cupp as well as another judge, Justice Terrence O’Donnell, of violating the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct.

Judge O’Neill contended that  at least an appearance of impropriety occurred when Justice Cupp joined a unanimous decision in favor of Ohio Edison, after the PAC had donated $6,300 apiece to the judges’ re-election campaigns.

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Ohio High Court Justice: There's a Need for Public Trust in Judges

Two Ohio Supreme Court justices visited the town of Wooster last week to meet with area business and community leaders, and discuss the court’s history and configuration. Justice Robert Cupp and Justice Terrence O’Donnell are both up for re-election this year, and organized the event as a meet-and-greet with incumbent justices, writes the Wooster Daily Record.

Cupp said the high court is in a state of transition with the unexpected death of Chief Justice Thomas Moyer in 2010. Maureen O’Connor is currently serving as the court’s first female chief justice. In his statement, Cupp said the court’s actions affect everyone in the state, “even though some might not see it that way.”

Cupp also stated that when a judge acts in his or her proper role, “we create stability and predictability.” The judicial system should be stable, predictable and consistent, he said.

O’Donnell spoke of his time as a law clerk in 1971, and said the Ohio Supreme Court was held in great respect at the time. However, that reputation and image changed for a time, he said. O’Donnell said this was because court decisions were not being made “in conformity with what the legislation and the law was.”

The article wrote that Chief Justice Moyer, who served on the Justice at Stake board of directors, worked to restore public confidence in the justices and keep the Supreme Court out of the headlines. “We recognize a public trust needs to be part of what we do,” O’Donnell said. “The more we adhere to our oath, the more predictable the law becomes, the better attorneys can advise clients and the better clients can conduct their affairs.”

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OH Justice Takes Aim at Court's Chief

A candidate for chief justice in Ohio has likened that court, with her opponent at the helm, to a “rudderless ship.”

“I believe that, at this point, the Ohio Supreme Court is akin to a rudderless ship without a leader, without direction, and post-Nov. 2 [Election Day] that will change,” Justice Maureen O’Connor told the editorial board of the Vindicator newspaper.

A Republican, Justice O’Connor is running against newly appointed Chief Justice Eric Brown, who recently was named by the governor to fill a vacancy  created by the death of then-Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.

When contacted by the newspaper, Justice Brown said, “I have been an effective leader on the court. … My style is very hands-on. I don’t lead by press conference. I work with others to come up with solutions to problems. Certainly, there’s a lot of talk this campaign season.” He is a Democrat.

Last month, the pair clashed in a meeting with the editorial board of the Columbus Dispatch. Justice Brown said his opponent should not have cast a vote in a decision lifting restraints on judicial candidate fundraising, because she is running for re-election. Justice O’Connor labeled Justice Brown a “middle-aged white male” and pointed out that if elected, she would be Ohio’s first female chief justice.

To learn more about the state Supreme Court elections in Ohio, check out Justice at Stake’s Ohio news page.

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