Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice to Headline Forum on Judicial Selection in Ohio

Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice to Headline Forum on Judicial Selection in Ohio

COLUMBUS - Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will join Ohio leaders for a forum to discuss the process for selecting Justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio, it was announced today.

“A Forum on Judicial Selection: A Time for Action” will be held Nov. 19 and 20 at the Ohio Judicial Center and the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus. The conveners of the event are Ohio Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, the Ohio State Bar Association, and the League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund. The forum is made possible by a grant from the Joyce Foundation.

“The time has come to do something to address the widespread perception that campaign contributions influence judicial decision making,” said Chief Justice Moyer. “Our goal is to determine whether to pursue a new selection method for Supreme Court Justices and to explore the various reforms that other states have implemented.”

“If the public believes that judges are not fair and impartial, then the integrity of the third branch is compromised, and this undermines the strength of our entire democratic system,” said Meg Flack, president of the League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund.

“The Ohio State Bar Association is concerned about the public’s perception that campaign contributions influence judicial decision-making,” said OSBA President Barbara J. Howard. “The OSBA has long supported alternatives to electing justices to the Supreme Court of Ohio and sees this forum as an opportunity for interested parties to examine viable options and develop a course of action to improve the manner in which Ohio selects justices for its highest court.”

Participants in the forum will include leaders of the judicial branch, the business community, organized labor, state elected officials, civic leaders and members of the legal community. A detailed program schedule and Web site are scheduled for release in October.

Among the leaders who have indicated that they will participate either in person or through a representative are Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, Ohio House Speaker Armond Budish, Ohio Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro, and Ohio House Minority Leader Bill Batchelder.

Discussions will be facilitated by OSU Law Professor and Former Attorney General Nancy Rogers and former Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Yvette McGee-Brown.

The cost of judicial campaigns has been increasing for years, forcing judges to raise money like politicians, which has led to the corrosive public perception that justice is for sale. From 1999 to 2008, $200.4 million was raised by candidates for state supreme courts. In that time period, candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court raised $21.2 million, placing Ohio second in the nation in the amount raised by Supreme Court candidates.

The Forum on Judicial Selection was formed because members of the judicial, legal and good-government communities recognize that a genuine opportunity for change exists. National attention on the problem has increased since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Caperton v. Massey on June 8, a case involving a Justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals who cast the deciding vote in a decision benefiting a campaign supporter who had contributed more than $3 million to his election effort.

Chief Justice Moyer: Chris Davey, 614-387-9257
OSBA: Ken Brown, 614-487-4426
League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund: Nancy Brown, 1-877-LWV-OHIO