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Republican Candidate for Ohio Court Selected in Primary

Court of Appeals Judge Pat Fischer defeated Court of Appeals Judge Colleen O’Toole by a margin of 54 to 46 percent in a Republican primary for the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

In their debut runs for statewide office, Fischer “benefited from a significant financial advantage and the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party,” the Dispatch reported. Fischer had raised almost $300,000, which was almost 14 times the amount his opponent raised. He also aired TV advertising.

Several other candidates in the general election did not face primary challengers: Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell, a Democrat, will face Fischer in the general election. Court of Appeals Judge Pat DeWine, a Republican, and Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Rice, a Democrat, did not face primary challengers in their contest for another open seat. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor will run unopposed.

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JAS: TV Ad Spending in Ohio Court Primary Race is Low

A Republican primary race for the Ohio Supreme Court has remained quiet, with TV ad contracts booked by a single candidate totaling $87,356, Justice at Stake said on Thursday. With days to go before the March 15 primary election, Judge Pat Fischer’s campaign is the only one currently airing ads.

The primary contest pits Judge Fischer and Court of Appeals Judge Colleen O’Toole against each other. Several other candidates do not face primary challengers: Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell, a Democrat, is not facing a primary challenger and will face the winner of the Fischer-O’Toole primary in the general election. Court of Appeals Judge Pat DeWine, a Republican, and Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Rice, a Democrat, do not face primary challengers in their contest for another open seat. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor will run unopposed. Read more

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First TV Ads Airing in Ohio Supreme Court Primary

TV advertising has begun airing in one of the races for three seats on the Ohio Supreme Court, The Toledo Blade reports, citing Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice.

As the two legal reform groups recently reported (see Gavel Grab), Court of Appeals Judge Pat Fischer’s campaign is the first to report spending thousands of dollars on TV advertising. He faces a primary contest for the GOP nomination with Court of Appeals Judge Colleen O’Toole, and the winner will face Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell, a Democrat, in the general election.

When both sides were battling some time ago over the court’s philosophical composition, big spending occurred in judicial elections. But the court’s makeup is now dominated 6-1 by Republicans, and spending has declined, the newspaper said. Read more

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JAS: TV Advertising Ahead in Ohio Supreme Court Primary

Residents of Cleveland, Ohio soon will see TV ads in the GOP primary for the Ohio Supreme Court.  Court of Appeals Judge Pat Fischer’s campaign has signed contracts for at least $54,470 in TV advertising, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Thursday.

The ads are set to begin airing on Monday. The primary pits Fischer and Court of Appeals Judge Colleen O’Toole against each other. Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell, a Democrat, will face the winner in the general election. Court of Appeals Judges Pat DeWine, a Republican, and Cynthia Rice, a Democrat, do not face primary opponents in their contest for another open seat. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is running unopposed.

“Ohio has a history of multimillion-dollar Supreme Court elections, and in the last cycle it was among a handful of states where election costs exceeded $1 million per seat,” said JAS Executive Director Susan Liss. “With more evidence appearing that high spending in judicial campaigns has an effect on courtroom rulings, these early signs that the money race may be on again this year raise serious concerns.” Read more

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Court Rejects Challenge to Ohio Judicial Election Law

Leaving the political affiliations of judicial candidates off the general election ballot in Ohio is constitutionally sound, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled, according to The Toledo Blade.

“The burden on the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights is minimal because political parties and judicial candidates remain free to provide, and voters remain free to receive, a plethora of information regarding whether a given candidate affiliates with or is endorsed by a particular political party,” U.S. Circuit Judge John Rogers said for a three-judge panel, according to Courthouse News Service. Read more

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Three Seats at Stake on 2016 Ohio Supreme Court Election

OhioFlag1Three seats on the seven-person Ohio Supreme Court will be on the ballot next year, in a state that is a major judicial election battleground.

Justice Paul Pfeifer will vacate a seat by his retirement, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and candidates to succeed him include Republican Pat DeWine and Democrat Cynthia Rice, who are both appellate judges.

Vying to succeed Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger will be two appellate judges who are Republicans,  Pat Fischer and Colleen Mary O’Toole, and Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell will run as a Democrat. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, is expected to stand for re-election.

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Reform Aimed to Inform More Ohio Voters About Judicial Races

Ohio_quarter,_reverse_side,_2002Reforms led by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor are aimed at raising the profile of judicial elections and helping voters be more informed about them, a Columbus Dispatch editorial says.

Part of the effort to get more voters to participate in judicial elections will be a website, Judicial Votes Count, to be launched soon. It will have biographical information about candidates, their responses to a standard questionnaire and lists of candidates’ endorsements.

While Justice O’Connor has spoken of interest by some in the legal community in a switch to merit selection of judges, she believes that is unlikely to be adopted given public opinion polling in the state, according to the editorial.

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Chief Justice O’Connor Touts Ohio Voter Education Website

17950861-mmmain1-150x147A voter education website specifically for Ohio judicial elections will come online on Sept. 1, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor believes the website will improve voter turnout for these elections, the article explains. She offered the restrictions placed on judicial candidates as another explanation for low turnout, claiming the “whispered” campaigns are drowned out by the “shouting” of executive campaigns.

O’Connor has suggested other reforms, including moving judicial elections to odd-numbered years, and require candidates to accumulate more legal experience before running to be a judge.

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Editorial: Best Reform Goal in Ohio Would be Merit Selection

17950861-mmmainProposals by Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to combat public apathy over judicial elections don’t go far enough, and “Ideally, judges in Ohio would be appointed based on merit,” a Cleveland.com editorial declares.

Her proposals include holding off-year elections, strengthening voter education outreach, and increasing experience requirements for judges. In the winter, Cleveland.com reported that the proposals were not gaining much political momentum (see Gavel Grab).

“For many Ohioans, the most important elected official they will encounter is the judge ruling in their divorce, or in their dispute with their employer or on the criminal charge and potential prison term they are facing,” the editorial said. But judicial candidates “are often given short shrift” on Election Day, it said. The editorial was headlined, “Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s judicial-election reform ideas make sense, as far as they go.”

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Judicial Campaign Restrictions Subject of Ohio Lawsuit

An Ohio judge is suing state officials over campaigning restrictions which she says puts her at a disadvantage in elections.

Colleen O’Toole already announced her candidacy in the 2016 Supreme Court election, but restrictions on fundraising and other campaign activities prevent her from doing much early self-promotion. The Columbus Dispatch explains that judicial campaigns are prohibited from raising money until 120 days before the primary. O’Toole is suing Justice Maureen O’Connor and two others, claiming that this and other regulations violate her First Amendment rights.

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