justice is supposed to be blind. But not in Ohio. Not when a pair of Ohio Supreme Court justices abandoned any pretense of impartiality and objectivity in the high-stakes redistricting cases before the court that completely upended Ohio politics.
Justice Sharon Kennedy and Justice Pat DeWine effectively removed their metaphorical blindfolds to impartial justice with a startling disregard for judicial neutrality on district maps under dispute in court. So Ohioans can (and should) reasonably ask themselves what, besides the evidence, influenced their dissent on all The map of legislative or congressional districts, drawn up by the Republicans, was rightly ruled unconstitutional by the majority
Recently, Kennedy appeared at a Republican Party event in Marion County to ask for support in her campaign to replace outgoing Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.
His fellow GOP members were concerned about the redistricting issue and how it was being challenged in the High Court. Kennedy waded straight – obviously without the foresight of propriety – calling the ongoing redistricting battle in his courtroom a “fight of our life.” Was she referring to the Republicans gathered in a case that could not be more politically charged?
Admittedly, justice has left the partisan crowd in no doubt about his lawsuit notice under advisement in the State Supreme Court on the districts (gerrymandered) drawn by the Republican leaders.
Kennedy complained about the excessive grip of outside Democratic groups on the redistricting process in Ohio. It doesn’t matter that the applicants in redistricting cases, presenting arguments to the Supreme Court of Ohio, are affiliated with the organizations challenged by a judge seized of the cases. To leave. This. Sink. In. Kennedy claimed that left-wing activists were mobilizing “to put judges in court who do what they do with redistricting. Sounds like a plot to uphold the Ohio Constitution.
The judge’s public statements revealed a troubling partisan bias that, according to Ohio’s Code of Judicial Ethics, “could reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness” of a case pending before the court. .
The prejudicial remarks of a sitting judge were “really embarrassing,” acknowledged Professor Jonathan Entin of Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Kennedy’s ‘obviously partisan’ stings were ‘so focused on a particular case’ that they, at the very least, ‘raise questions of impropriety’ for litigants appearing in the High Court on the cases she referred to .
As no doubt immoral as Kennedy’s comments were about redistricting cases she hears, “nothing will come of it”, sighed Entin. Justice “is clearly not going to challenge even if someone asks him”. Yet Kennedy’s compromising judicial conduct in the already politically tense redistricting cases could complicate her ambition to lead the court as the (now questionable, fair and impartial) candidate for chief justice. His colleague in the disqualifying bias category on the bench, Judge DeWine, is equally, if not more, ethically challenged.
The Republican, who is up for re-election, should have recused himself early on in the redistricting cases, Entin said. “That’s not a close call.”
DeWine, whose father is the governor, member of the Redistricting Commission and named party to the case before his son, “should do not to be seated in any of these cases, both congressional cards and legislative cards,” the jurist said. The justice argued that the rules of judicial ethics – about his waiver of ruling on cards approved, in part, by his father – do not apply. DeWine is wrong. The Ohio Judicial Code Driving is unambiguous on Why, Entin argued, a position widely shared in the legal community.
DeWine’s conflict of interest in deciding the outcome of the redistricting lawsuits, whose defendants include Gov. Mike DeWine, is painfully obvious. The rules state that “a judge must disqualify himself in any proceeding in which the judge knows that a close relative is a party to the case,” the law professor explained. Justice tried to sidestep the last part by claiming her father was righteous a parties to the case.
But the language governing judicial conduct in Ohio is crystal clear, Entin pointed out. Count on the lawyer: “The rules say, ‘a party’ not the only party‘ on the one hand.”
An Ohio Supreme Court judge’s refusal to acknowledge the obvious and disqualify himself from passing judgment on his father is a legal travesty. But so does a judge’s refusal to refrain from injecting divisive partisanship into judicial proceedings of grave importance to millions of Ohioans.
Perhaps, as the professor thinks, we cannot completely eliminate politics from our courts. But “to the extent that all, or a substantial part of what the courts do, is seen to merely reflect the personal or political opinions of judges and judges”, that is the extent to which our legal system, “all ‘idea where you win, you lose, you go on to fight another battle’, is dangerously undermined.
In their latest dissent on maps of legislative constituencies, again improperly favored one party over another in violation of the voter-approved amendment to the Ohio Constitution on redistricting, Kennedy and DeWine accused the court majority of overriding voters’ will with their own political preferences (adhering to the letter and intent of the constitution) and threatening “the very legitimacy of the court”.
That’s rich coming from a pair of blindfolded judges.
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