After French disregards Judicial Code, calls Court “backstop” for Republicans,Republicans hypocritically use State Bar Association to attack O’Donnell
COLUMBUS – Two days ago, the Ohio Supreme Court campaign of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell released its first television ad of the campaign. The ad references the same criticisms of the Kasich appointee’s short tenure on the court several major Ohio papers have noted in endorsing John P. O’Donnell.
Here’s what leading Ohio papers have said about Justice French:
“[French] ruled for the court majority that the group did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of Governor Kasich’s JobsOhio, a privatized economic development agency. By not allowing the court to examine whether the state constitution prohibits the state from investing in a private entity, justices denied the taxpayers of Ohio an answer to a legitimate and important question.
“In another case, Ms. French sided with the majority in favor of American Electric Power, deciding the utility could keep more than $350 million of unjustified charges it collected from customers. Before the decision, Ms. French got a campaign contribution of more than $6,000 from the American Electric Power Committee for Responsible Government . . . it does not represent what Ohioans should expect from the supreme arbiters of their laws.” [Source: Toledo Blade editorial (10/6/2014), “Supreme Justice.”]
After recapping the facts of French’s ruling for AEP and its donations around the time of the decision, the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board noted “the issue of appearances in a state that elects judges matters.” [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (9/30/2014), “John P. O’Donnell for Ohio Supreme Court.”]
Last evening, the Ohio Republican Party began touting a letter from one of the committees of the OSBA. The ad highlights donations that Governor Kasich’s appointee took from AEP shortly before and after ruling in its favor in an opinion even the majority conceded was “unfair” to consumers. [Source: Columbus Business First (2/13/2014), “AEP allowed to keep $368M ‘windfall’ from customers, Supreme Court says, despite ‘unfair’ outcome.”]
In response, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern released the following statement:
“This factual ad merely references what multiple papers have noted is very troubling about Governor Kasich’s appointee’s short record on the Court, something that the First Amendment gives Judge O’Donnell the right to highlight information about his opponent that both his campaign and newspapers believe is relevant for voters to know about the race. We hope the Ohio State Bar Association aggressively addresses Justice French’s comments about keeping the Court a conservative ‘backstop’ to protect the Republican agenda and points out the Ohio Republican Party’s hypocrisy here.”
In an opinion written by Justice Scalia, the United States Supreme Court held that rules that prohibit discussion of issue of public interest to the voters as unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, held that rules that do not permit judicial campaigns to discuss issues of interest of the public in such races are unconstitutional in elected judicial races, including campaign literature that criticizes decisions of the Court. [Source: Republican Party of Minnesota v. White (2002), 536 U.S. 765.]
French declared her election was about keeping the court “conservative” and a “backstop” for the Republican Party agenda. This past weekend, Justice French gave pro-Republican remarks while introducing Governor Kasich at GOP fundraiser in Powell. French talked about her partisanship as a Republican and described her role on the Court as “the backstop for Republican legislation.” French went on to tell the crowd they should vote for her and “keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative”, so that if Republican legislation is brought to the Court, it is a conservative Court making the decision. [Source: Columbus Dispatch (10/25/2014), “Justice French: Court the 'backstop' for GOP legislation.”]
French has failed to abide by same OSBA’s rules by not denouncing third-party ads. French was Governor Kasich’s appointee to the Ohio Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of Kasich’s signature program, JobsOhio. French has benefitted from “independent expenditures” from American Freedom Builders, a PAC formed by former JobsOhio head Marc Kvamme. The PAC has ran ads suggesting how she’ll rule on death penalty cases.[Source: Columbus Dispatch (10/25/2014), “Third-party group backing French with TV spots.”]
In 2012, the Ohio Republican Party ignored an OSBA finding that their ad that attacked then Judge O’Neill over a conviction… that was reversed on appeal. The OSBA “blasted a new commercial financed by the Ohio Republican Party that accuses the challenger of a GOP incumbent Ohio Supreme Court justice of sympathizing with rapists.” The attack failed to note that the conviction at issue was reversed in an unanimous appellate decision. But the Ohio GOP refused to pull the ad. [Source: Toledo Blade (10/26/2012), “State bar association chastises Republican Party for Justice campaign ad.”]