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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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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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OH Chief Justice Personally Pitched Fundraiser

Chief Justice Eric Brown, newly named as Ohio’s top jurist, has made a personal telephone pitch inviting people to attend a campaign fundraiser.

For judicial candidates, “direct solicitation and receipt of campaign contributions is prohibited under the state’s judicial code of conduct,” according to a Dayton Daily News article. Justice Brown is a Democrat, and the Ohio Republican Party released an audio recording of his making a solicitation call, the Associated Press reported.

An Ohio Republican Party spokesman said the GOP was weighing whether to file a disciplinary complaint.

An adviser to the Brown campaign said the candidate did not break the rules. He was encouraging attendance, not asking directly for campaign contributions, the adviser said. Read more

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Several Tributes Sought to Honor Moyer

Some Republican state senators are urging the renaming of the Ohio Judicial Center  in honor of the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, and they also are proposing that a commission be set up to recommend judicial appointees to the governor.

Gov. Ted Strickland earlier had recommended renaming of the building, which houses the state Supreme Court. That court would have to approve a name change, according to a Columbus Dispatch article.

To honor Justice Moyer by carrying out some of the changes he had backed, a Republican sponsor said, the proposal would do several things–including setting up a judicial review commission to give Ohio’s governor recommendations for judicial appointments.

Strickland voluntarily makes use of such a commission, the newspaper said, although that was not the case when he picked Franklin County probate judge Eric Brown to complete Justice Moyer’s term.

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

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OH Governor Appoints New Chief Justice

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has named a fellow Democrat, Franklin County probate judge Eric Brown (photo at left), to serve as Ohio’s Supreme Court chief justice. He will serve the remainder of the term of the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.

Brown will take office May 3. It will be the first time since 1986 that a Democrat will lead the state Supreme Court, according to a Columbus Dispatch article. He will be the only Democrat on a court with six Republican justices.

Brown and Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican and former lieutenant governor, are running for election in November for a six-year term as chief justice. To learn about tributes paid to the late Chief Justice Moyer, a founding board member of Justice at Stake, check out earlier Gavel Grab posts.

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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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Ohio Chief Justice Dies

Ohio Chief Justice Moyer, a founding member of Justice at Stake’s board of directors, died today. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends. At the time of his death, he was the longest serving chief justice in the United States. He cared deeply about the courts, he was a truly gentle man, and we will miss him very much.

More information about his life can be found at:

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/04/02/moyer-dies.html?sid=101

and http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/SCO/justices/moyer/default.aspx.

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