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Wednesday, October 31,2012

Elect three Democrats to GOP-lopsided Supreme Court

In the three races for the Ohio Supreme Court, we urge Athens County voters to lend support to the three Democrats running for election on the overwhelmingly Republican court.

In each contested race for the state's high court, we believe the qualified Democratic candidate offers the best chance to pull a conservative court over toward the middle where most Ohioans reside ideologically and politically.

We endorse Justice Yvette McGee Brown in her race against Sharon L. Kennedy; William M. O'Neill in his race against Justice Robert R. Cupp; and Mike J. Skindell in his race against Justice Terrence O'Donnell.

Currently, the party divide on the Ohio Supreme Court includes six Republicans and one Democrat, McGee Brown. This overwhelming GOP advantage has held true for many years on Ohio's highest court, and we believe that it's long past the time when the court more closely reflects the relative even party and ideological balance in this state.

While we're obviously in favor of a more balanced court, in each of the three races, we also happen to believe the Democrats have a qualified and impressive candidate:

Yvette McGee Brown, who was appointed to fill a vacant position on the state Supreme Court by then Gov. Ted Strickland in January 2011, has been an impressive jurist who has won praise from her Republican co-justices She has excelled at every stopping point in her long career in public service, both in the judiciary and private sector.

Her opponent, Sharon L. Kennedy, a former police officer and current judge, is the only candidate in the Supreme Court races this fall who received a "not recommended" rating by the Ohio State Bar Association. She doesn't offer any compelling reason to vote for her over Justice McGee Brown.

William O'Neill (an Ohio University grad) is a retired appeals judge from Geauga County who currently works as an emergency room nurse. He ran unsuccessfully for the state Supreme Court in 2006, and then as now, he emphasized the need to eliminate the corrupting role of campaign contributions in judicial elections.

He has proposed a plan to replace the current system – which undermines the integrity of the courts – with one that would provide public financing of judicial elections.

This is a particularly timely proposal in this race since his opponent, Justice Cupp, has been the recipient of hefty campaign contributions from executives whose corporations had cases before the court. O'Neill, meanwhile, doesn't accept campaign contributions.

While conventional wisdom holds that the GOP justices who receive corporate donations haven't shown favoritism to their contributors, that doesn't mean they won't in the future. It's really not a convincing conclusion anyway, since one can't easily parse a judge's motivations in something as complicated as a case before the high court.

While Cupp has gotten high marks for his work on the court, we believe O'Neill's spirit of judicial reform is badly needed on Ohio's top court.

• Perhaps the toughest sell for the high court is Michael Skindell, a Cleveland area trial lawyer who's currently serving in the state Senate.

His opponent, Justice O'Donnell, has served on the state Supreme Court since 2003. Like Cupp, O'Donnell has benefited from corporate donations in past judicial races. He even served as the lead-in to a 2006 story in the New York Times about how campaign cash was polluting judicial campaigns nationwide. The story focused on Ohio particularly, with justices routinely ruling in favor of their contributors in cases before the highest court. The Times reported that O'Donnell had voted for his contributors' side 91 percent of the time, the highest rate on the Ohio Supreme Court (with the average percentage 70 percent).

Skindell, with no judicial experience, has an uphill climb, and his challenge in defeating a long-time GOP opponent is made all the tougher by veteran Ohio Republican attack doberman Bob Bennett (state GOP party chair) calling him a left-wing extremist for supporting such "radical" positions as opposition to Senate Bill 5 (state Issue 2). Considering Ohio voters crushed Issue 2 at the polls two years ago, Bennett probably needs to update his definition of "extremist."

As Skindell stated in a campaign speech in September, "Bob Bennett likes a Supreme Court made up of Republicans. Not only does he like that, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Manufacturing Association like a Supreme Court made up of all Republicans" like it as well.

We strongly support electing qualified justices to the Ohio Supreme Court who will provide desperately needed balance. Vote for Yvette McGee Brown, William O'Neill and Michael Skindell.


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Reggie Huff

The real reason that the GOP is attacking Judge O'Neill in this exceptional manner at this time is because of the lawsuit my wife and I filed in Federal Court on Oct 16th against Firstenergy naming five Republican Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court as "nominal" 
Defendants (Lisa G. Huff et al v. Firstenergy et al-12 CV 2583). My wife’s permanent disability confining her to a nursing home directly involves issues surrounding a utility generated hazard.
Both my wife and I are lifelong registered Republicans. As such we could not be more concerned and disgusted at the state of the Ohio Judiciary and in particular the Ohio Supreme Court. Our suit charges that Firstenergy, through its top executives, loaded a super majority of Republican Justices up with ILLEGAL (straw donor) campaign cash with the expectation of and in exchange for specific exclusive improper official acts in a specific case redounding to illegal control of the Ohio Supreme Court for their exclusive and otherwise unobtainable benefit. 
Channel 21 WFMJ did a good and fair story on this case on Oct 18th in which a predicable irrelevant statement of recrimination released by Firstenergy was announced. Other news organizations have since been investigating and the Ohio GOP is anticipating a big shoe to drop in the final days of this campaign.  
The decision to file this suit was made earlier in the year without concern about the election. We did not know anything about Judge O'Neill. While it is true that Judge O'Neill's Aug complaint filed against Justices Cupp & O'Donnell is mentioned in our suit because it lends credibility to it, Judge O'Neill otherwise had nothing to do with our case.  
As Republicans my wife and I must support Judge O'Neill because he has proven himself principled on the issue of "MONEY AND JUDGES DON"T MIX". As Republicans we are always talking about wanting our public officials to be principled so they are at least somewhat predictable.  
As far as the "rape" case is concerned, at a time when so many rape cases have been thrown out after conviction due to DNA and some prosecutors have been exposed as being overeager to the point of being corrupt (Duke Lacrosse) do we really want a judge who is not principled and worried about future political attacks to rule on these cases? As Republicans, freedom and liberty are a hallmark of what we stand for yet the slightest misuse of the power of the state can destroy all that in a second. As a tough on crime Republican I Applaud Judge O'Neill for holding the trial court accountable for rushing to convict someone, guilty or not, without giving that person a fair chance to defend himself. This is precisely what appellate court judges are supposed to do and far too many do not do.  
Justice Cupp supports our current election system for judges on the basis that it allows the people to hold judges accountable and then supports a self-serving system where judicial complaints are secret. In order for the system to actually work as stated the people have to be informed of all newsworthy events especially those that cause an entire political party to go off the rails.



Thank you for this Reggie.