Judicial forum produces plan to change election of Ohio judges
Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009
The conveners of a two-day state conference that concluded Nov. 20 announced that they will work to build a coalition to support amending the Ohio Constitution to eliminate judicial elections.
"A Forum on Judicial Selection: A Time for Action" was 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 were Ohio Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA), and the League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund. The forum was made possible by a grant from the Joyce Foundation.
Based on the input from a broad spectrum of stakeholders, experts, and interested parties that change is needed, the conveners concluded that there is support for some form of an appointive-retention system. They proposed replacing the current system of statewide elections of Supreme Court Justices with a new system where justices are appointed and then stand for a retention election.
"Early next year we will propose a specific plan that we will take back to the partner organizations for formal consideration," said Chief Justice Moyer. The conveners said that while the specifics of the plan will take time to develop, based on what they heard at the forum any plan will have the following characteristics:
- The appointment process will be open and transparent.
- Any nominating commission will be representative of the diversity of Ohio’s population and will include multiple appointing authorities.
- Some form of a public education component will be included.
- Retention elections will ensure that voters still have a voice.
"These two days were an important first step toward addressing the public’s concern about the influence of campaign contributions on judicial decision making," said OSBA President Barbara J. Howard.
"The elements discussed today of an appointive-elective system will go a long way toward making the process more transparent and open," said Meg Flack, president of the League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund.
"What we learned these two days is that we can do better in Ohio," said Moyer. "In the coming weeks, we will be preparing a report that will offer a specific recommendation for reforming the process for selecting Supreme Court Justices."