Ohio Supreme Court

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ohio Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1802
Chief:  $151,000
Associates:  $142,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Paul Pfeifer  •  Maureen O'Connor (Ohio)  •  Terrence O'Donnell (Ohio)  •  Judith Ann Lanzinger  •  Judith French  •  Sharon L. Kennedy  •  William O'Neill (Ohio)  •  

Seal of Ohio.png

Founded in 1802, the Ohio Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort and has final authority over the interpretation of Ohio law and the Ohio Constitution. It is composed of seven justices: six justices and a chief justice. Most of the cases the court hears are appeals from the twelve district courts of appeals in Ohio. The court was established by Article IV Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution.[1]


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Justice Paul Pfeifer1993-2017ElectedRepublican
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor (Ohio)2002-2016ElectedRepublican
Justice Terrence O'Donnell (Ohio)2003-2018Gov. Bob TaftRepublican
Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger2004-2016ElectedRepublican
Justice Judith French2013-2021Gov. John KasichRepublican
Justice Sharon L. Kennedy2012-2020ElectedRepublican
Justice William O'Neill (Ohio)2013-2018ElectedDemocratic

Judicial selection

The seven justices on the court, one chief justice and six associate justices are elected to six-year terms on a nonpartisan ballot. In the case of a vacancy occurring between elections the governor would appoint a justice.[1] Candidates run on the ballot without their political affiliation, however, the affiliation is known prior to the election as the parties "nominate" the candidates for their primary elections.[2]


To be a qualified candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, a person must have practiced law for at least six years, must be admitted to the Bar in Ohio and be younger than 70 years.[1]


The Ohio Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction in cases regarding the state or national constitution, cases that originated in the courts of appeals, cases of conflicting opinions in the appellate courts, cases involving the death penalty, and may review the Public Utilities Commission and the Board of Tax Appeals.

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to issue extraordinary writs. These include writs of habeas corpus (inquiring into the cause of an allegedly unlawful imprisonment or deprivation of custody), writs of mandamus (ordering a public official to perform a required act), writs of procedendo (compelling a lower court to proceed to judgment in a case), writs of prohibition (ordering a lower court to stop abusing or usurping judicial functions), and writs of quo warranto (issued against a person or corporation for usurpation, misuse, or abuse of public office or corporate office or franchise)."[1][3]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 * *
2013 2,055 2,040
2012 2,187 2,171
2011 2,207 2,263
2010 2,293 2,245
2009 2,363 2,485
2008 2,506 2,542
2007 2,459 2,386
  • Ohio has yet to provide caseload data for 2014.



Term commencing 1/1/15
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
KennedySharon L. KennedyApprovedAYesRepublican100%ApprovedA72.5%   ApprovedA
LetsonTom Letson YesDemocratic100%ApprovedA27.5%   DefeatedD
Term commencing 1/2/15
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
FrenchJudith FrenchApprovedAYesRepublican100%ApprovedA55.9%   ApprovedA
O'DonnellJohn P. O'Donnell NoDemocratic100%ApprovedA   

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Ohio was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Ohio received a score of 0.62. Based on the justices selected, Ohio was the 7th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[5]

Rules of practice and procedure in Ohio courts

The Ohio Supreme Court, pursuant to Article IV of the Ohio Constitution, Section 5(B), has authority to establish the rules of practice and procedure used by all Ohio courts. The court has drafted the following rules:


Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court

Judicial conduct

The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct sets forth ethical guidelines and principles for the conduct of judges and judicial candidates in Ohio. It consists of four overarching canons:

  • Canon 1: "A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety."
  • Canon 2: "A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently."
  • Canon 3: "A judge shall conduct the judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities so as to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office."
  • Canon 4: "A judge or judicial candidate shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity, or impartiality of the judiciary."[6][3]

The full text of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct can be found here.

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Ohio earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[7]

Removal of justices

Justices may be removed in one of three ways:

  • A formal complaint alleging judicial misconduct may be filed with a grievance committee of the board of commissioners or a disciplinary counsel. Both are authorized to investigate the report of misconduct and, if, after a finding of credible evidence substantiating the misconduct, the Ohio Supreme Court may then create a commission made up of five judges to determine whether or not the removal, suspension, or retirement of the judge is called for.
  • A judge may be removed if there is a concurrent resolution of two-thirds of the members of both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.
  • The Ohio House of Representatives can impeach a judge by a majority vote and the Ohio Senate can then convict a judge with a two-thirds vote.[8][9]

Notable cases


Ohio Supreme Court building in Columbus, Ohio
  • 1802: The adoption of the Ohio Constitution in 1802 created a supreme court for the State of Ohio, under Article IV of the Ohio Constitution. The Ohio Supreme Court, at first, consisted of only three justices who were appointed to the court by the Ohio General Assembly and were required to hold court in every county by traveling on horseback.
  • 1834: By 1834, the Ohio Supreme Court had jurisdiction over 72 counties and the justices covered 2,000 miles (by horseback) every year.
  • 1851: The Ohio Constitution was revised. The new revisions included adding two more justices to the court and changing the judicial selection method, so that the justices were now elected to the court.
  • 1912: An amendment to the Ohio Constitution increased the court to its current membership of seven justices and established the office of the chief justice of the court. The amendment also set the judicial term to six-years, which still holds today.
  • 1977: The Court created the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which serves to investigate and prosecute complaints and misconduct of the state's judges and attorneys.
  • 2004: The Ohio Supreme Court moved to its current residence, at the Ohio Judicial Center, located at 65 South Front Street in Columbus, Ohio.[19][20]

Notable firsts

  • Maureen O'Connor is the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the court. She was elected to the position by voters in the 2010 judicial election.
  • Florence Allen, the first woman in the nation to serve as a justice in her state's court of last resort, was elected in 1922.[21]
  • Robert Duncan, was the first African-American elected to the court in 1969.

Former justices

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 The Supreme Court of Ohio & The Ohio Judicial System, "Jurisdiction & Authority," accessed October 2, 2014
  2. Springfield News-Sun, "Judicial candidates in Ohio can disclose party affiliation, court says," August 11, 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. The Supreme Court of Ohio, “Reports & Publications: Annual Reports”
  5. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  6. The Supreme Court of Ohio & The Ohio Judicial System, "Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct," amended January 1, 2014
  7. Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
  8. Ohio Constitution, Article IV Section 17
  9. American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Ohio, Removal of Judges," accessed April 2, 2014
  10. The New York Times, “Ohio Governor Defies G.O.P. With Defense of Social Safety Net”, October 28, 2013
  11. The New York Times, “Medicaid Expansion is Set for Ohioans”, October 21, 2013
  12. Complaint: State ex rel. Cleveland Right to Life v. State of Ohio Controlling Board, Case No. 2013-1668, filed October 22, 2013
  13. The Ohio Supreme Court & The Ohio Judicial System, "State ex rel. Cleveland Right to Life v. State of Ohio Controlling Board, 138 Ohio St.3d 57 (2013)," accessed March 27, 2014
  14. 14.0 14.1 ABC News, "Ohio Court Upholds Firing in School Bible Case," November 19, 2013
  15. The Columbus Dispatch, "Supreme Court upholds firing of Freshwater in religious-symbols case," November 20, 2013
  16. Los Angeles Times, "Ohio court upholds firing of science teacher with classroom Bible," November 20, 2013
  17. The Ohio Supreme Court & The Ohio Judicial System, "Freshwater v. Mt. Vernon City School District Board of Education," February 27, 2013
  18. The Ohio Supreme Court & The Ohio Judicial System, "Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp. v. Schwartzwald, 134 Ohio St.3d 13 (2012)," accessed March 27, 2014
  19. State of Ohio Legislature, "The Supreme Court of Ohio," accessed October 2, 2014
  20. The Ohio Supreme Court & The Ohio Judicial System, "History of the Supreme Court of Ohio 1901-1922"
  21. The Ohio Supreme Court & The Ohio Judicial System, "Florence Ellinwood Allen Biography"
  22. The Supreme Court of Ohio & The Ohio Judicial System, "Former justices - Justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio"