Chief Justice Announces Plan to Reform Judicial Elections
"I am as convinced as ever that we can improve the way we select judges and therefore enhance the confidence in our judiciary," Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said during her speech at the Ohio State Bar Association annual convention on May 1.
Chief Justice O'Connor outlined a three-point plan to reform judicial elections in Ohio that are based on questions she posed at the state bar association's convention last year.
O'Connor said the first of the three parts would be to elevate judicial elections: "I propose that we amend the Ohio Constitution to move all judicial races to odd years while at the same time making some modest changes in the Ohio Revised Code to place these races at the top of the ballot," Chief Justice O'Connor said. "Judges would appear in a less crowded field, and judicial elections would get the attention that they deserve."
The second part is a comprehensive approach to voter education, including a website housed by the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron that will launch next year with information about judicial candidates at every level. The voter education effort will be in partnership with the Bliss Institute, the League of Women Voters, and the Ohio State Bar Association.
"The Ohio State Bar Association has always been in favor of making sure the electorate is informed and, when they cast their vote, they know why they are casting their vote. So, we are pleased to be able to support the Chief in her efforts to try to make sure that in terms of the election of our judiciary that the citizenry are informed about the qualifications of those individuals and therefore can select the best person to serve in their respective communities," Ohio State Bar Association President Jonathan Hollingsworth commented after the speech.
And finally, the reform plan calls for an increase to the current six-year minimum experience requirement to serve as a judge.
"After careful study conferring with lawyers, judges, elected leaders and citizens in every corner of the state, I have concluded that the plan I offer today will strengthen judicial elections in Ohio, will empower voters, and support the highest quality judiciary possible," O'Connor said.
Chief Justice O'Connor emphasized that other elements of last year's proposal - including non-partisan judicial primaries and nominating commissions for judicial appointments by the governor - did not have the support needed to move forward at this time but she added they are still good ideas worth considering if conditions changes.
More information about the three-point plan is available at www.OhioJudicialReform.org.