Jan 03 2013

Merit, not politics, in Ohio judicial selection

Published by at 6:30 pm under Merit Selection

Case Western Reserve University School of Law Professor Jonathan H. Adler has praised Ohio Governor John Kaisch’s system of selection that the governor installed to choose a new interim Supreme Court Justice.

Ohio, like Pennsylvania, primarily elects its judges. If a judge should leave the bench in between election cycles, the Ohio constitution affords the governor the right to appoint a judge until the next election takes place.  Rather than wield his gubernatorial authority to unilaterally replace Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton when she announced her retirement earlier this year, Kaisch instead announced the formation of a selection committee of Ohio attorneys to assist him in making his decision.

Adler was one of the attorneys called to evaluate the thirteen applicants to

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replace Justice Stratton and offer a recommendation. “The process could have been quite political,” he writes in his blog entry on the Volokh Conspiracy, “but I was surprised at how little politics intruded. The Governor made clear he did not want political considerations to intrude on our deliberations. Beyond the recognition that state supreme court justice is an elective office, and the appointee would have to stand for reelection in two years, politics were not a concern. We did not have to worry who had the best political connections, who was owed a favor, or who could help the Governor politically. Instead, we identified the most qualified candidates and their respective strengths and weaknesses.”

This is a tremendously positive step for Ohio. Certainly the process Kaisch employed is informal, and at most would be only personally binding – if he wishes to do so, he could simply cancel his selection scheme in the future, similar to how North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue scrapped hers prior to leaving office. In this instance, however, Kaisch has demonstrated a willingness to move outside of the usual channels of politics in order to have competent advisement on creating the most unbiased and impartial judiciary for his state.

Hopefully his leadership in this matter will spark enthusiasm for more permanent and far-reaching reforms in the years to come, both in his home state, and in

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our own neighboring state just to the east.

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