Will Pat DeWine Refuse to Recuse?

Ohio Supreme Court Justice DeWine Could Hear Upcoming Case Involving His Father, Attorney General Mike DeWine

COLUMBUS — In his first month on the job, newly installed Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine will face his first ethical test of whether he should deliberate on a case involving his father, state Attorney General Mike DeWine.

“Justice Pat DeWine has the opportunity to do the right thing here and recuse himself from an important case in which his father is a party,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “This case involves a vital question concerning home rule authority, and common sense dictates that a justice should not be ruling on major cases when his own father is involved. When this issue came up in the campaign, DeWine said he was assured by the top staffer for the Supreme Court’s judicial ethics board that he could hear certain cases involving the attorney general’s office, but that same staffer also cautioned that exceptions could include significant cases on which his father has taken a public position. Because the issue here is so weighty, Justice DeWine should remove any potential for the perception of a conflict of interest and step down from this case.”

DeWine’s potential conflict of interest was an issue during his 2016 campaign, and Ohio’s pre-eminent expert on judicial ethics and the state Supreme Court determined that DeWine should have to recuse himself from every case in which the Ohio Attorney General is a party.

Jonathan Coughlan served as the Ohio Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Counsel from 1997 until 2013, and he researched the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct and the American Bar Association’s Annotated Model Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as similar scenarios from other states.

Coughlan found, “In other jurisdictions, a judge having a relative functioning as the supervisor of other lawyers who appear before a judicial officer has been determined to necessitate disqualification.

Looking at how the federal courts handle similar situations, Coughlan cited a federal advisory opinion that states, “If the relative serves as either the United States Attorney or Acting United States Attorney, the judge should recuse in all cases in which the office appears.”