Chief Justice O'Connor Announces Plan to Strengthen Judicial Elections
Staff Report | May 10, 2013
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor on May 9 announced an eight-point plan to strengthen judicial elections during her annual address at the Ohio State Bar Association convention.
As part of "Ohio Courts 2013: A Proposal for Strengthening Judicial Elections," Chief Justice O'Connor suggested that Ohio consider a range of options including moving all judicial elections to odd-numbered years, bolstering voter information efforts, lengthening judges' terms, and increasing the qualifications for judicial office. She also offered nonpartisan judicial election primaries for consideration.
"There are few matters more important in our democracy than ensuring that we have a system in place that results in the best possible selection of men and women to serve on the bench," Chief Justice O'Connor said. "What is the best way we can do this in Ohio? Can we improve the system that we already have?"
Chief Justice O'Connor said Ohio has one of the best systems of justice anywhere in the world, but said there are several problems. She said some polls show the public believes judges are susceptible to political influence, and she said voter participation in judicial races is on average around 25 percent less than for races in the executive and legislative branches.
Chief Justice O'Connor is encouraging all Ohioans to visit ohio-courts 2013-dot -org to participate in a statewide discussion about her ideas with the hopes of refining the proposal and moving forward with a final plan in 2013.
"Over the last 75 years, there have been opportunities to switch to a merit selection, which would require a constitutional amendment, and time and again voters have reaffirmed by large margins, two to one, that they wanted judges to be accountable in competitive elections," Chief Justice O'Connor said. "And, I believe that now is the time to come together as a state and to arrive at a package of improvements that we can enact into law."
Chief Justice O'Connor said she was inspired in part to develop her plan because this year marks the 45th Anniversary of the Modern Courts Amendment, the last major reform of Ohio courts.