Friday, May 10, 2013

Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern objects to Chief Justice O'Connor's efforts for Ohio non-partisan judicial elections, activists say some judges are corrupt across partisan lines, including O'Connor, League of Women Voters supports O'Connor on controversial issue

Ohio Democratic Party Chairperson Chris Redfern
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief,  Cleveland Urban News.Com and The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com, Ohio's No 1 and No 2 online Black news venues (www.clevelandurbannews.comReach Cleveland Urban News.Com by email at and by phone at 216-659-0473

COLUMBUS, Ohio- Republican Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor announced yesterday that she wants to have Ohio municipal, common pleas, appellate and state supreme court judges elected without regards to political party affiliation and instead wants nonpartisan primary and general elections. O'Connor also wants judicial terms extended, among other proposals.

But Ohio Democratic leaders say the chief justice, who is under fire by community activists for alleged case fixing for herself  and her friends against political foes and outspoken community activists and attorneys through the handpicking of retired visiting judges that she sends throughout the state to places like Berea Municipal Court, is out of line.

They say that O'Connor's efforts are self serving and politically motivated.

"While I appreciate Chief Justice O'Connor's desire to improve judicial elections, her approach would ultimately harm voters and the quality of judges in Ohio," said Ohio Democratic Party Chairperson Chris Redfern in a press release to Cleveland Urban News.Com. "Depriving voters of information during a primary will only turn judicial elections into a name game with judges elected due to popular last names rather than on merit."

The League of Women's Voters is supporting the position of O'Connor, a former lieutenant governor and the first female chief justice on the state's highest court. 

"The League of Women Voters Ohio is pleased that Chief Justice 
Maureen O'Connor has made a number of thoughtful proposals 
designed to improve the way judges are selected in Ohio," said 
Nancy Brown,LWVO President."We are especially pleased that Chief
Justice O'Connor recognizes the importance of reducing 
partisanship in judicial races so that voters can focus on which judges are most qualified rather than on a party label or a
popular name."

Cuyahoga County, Ohio's largest county among 88 statewide, has a majority of Democratic judges at the municipal, common pleas and Eighth District Court of Appeals levels, and the county is a Democratic stronghold.

Cleveland Municipal Court judges, however, do run in non-partisan races, though being a Democrat is usually a benefit relative to endorsements and campaign donations.

In fact, data show that the only venue where Republicans have a true stronghold for judges in multi-judge courts of seven or more judges is at the Ohio Supreme Court, which has been predominantly Republican for decades or more. That, say Democrats, is really behind O'Connor's efforts.

As to the name game, it does matter in Cuyahoga County as judges with last names such as Kilbane, Calabrese, Celebreeze, Corrigan, Russo and Gallagher often are elected because of their last names, particularly in the general division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, and also more likely in the state appellate court.

Interestingly though, most of them are Democrats.

Community activists say that the problem with Ohio judges is larger than partisanship and that some of them are corrupt across partisan lines, data show.