Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Saturday, March 18

DCC Candidates Forum: Candidates for Supreme Court

William O'Neill: O'Neill (pictured in file photo) talks about how he sued the Supreme Court in 2003 over the rules on how judicial candidates can campaign for office. As is well known, O'Neill refuses to accept campaign contributions and is building a populist campaign. He contrasts this to the current Republican Justices who accepted tainted money from indicted Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe.

A.J. Wagner: Wagner (pictured in file photo) is a Common Pleas Court Judge in Montgomery County. He believes you can't win without accepting campaign contributions (O'Neill lost to Terrence O'Donnell last time out by 60% to 40%), and he is determined to win. The current Justices don't stand up for their own decisions. "Justice at its best is Love standing against everything that is not Love." Wagner describes a workers' compensation case where the Supreme Court basically said, "Tough luck." Wagner says, "That's where we are ... power without love is abusive." We've got to change the court.

Ben Espy: When the only Democrat, Alice Robie Resnick, leaves the Court, her philosophy of caring for the powerless will leave with her unless we elect a Democrat. Espy (pictured in file photo) has a background in corporate, military, education, and police law. He was chief of the civil rights and corporate crimes divisions in the Attorney General's Office. He spent ten years in the Ohio Senate, where he was Minority Leader. He wrote the brief for all Democratic legislators in DeRolph, the school financing case, and was appointed by the Court as a mediator to try to resolve that case.

He also has a strong labor background, and has been endorsed by the Democratic Party. "I am the only Democrat ever to have been endorsed by Woody Hayes."

Peter Sikora: Sikora (photographed at event) is a Court of Common Pleas Judge in the Juvenile Division. He comes from a working class family. His parents sacrificed for his education. He has been on the bench for 17 years. Sikora talks about the mess that is State government: pay-to-play, Noe coin scandal, Taft's ethics conviction, etc. One of the things he wants to do on the Supreme Court is to address limitations on the disabled. He is upset and offended that he can't be a full participant in this event, here in a public school. [Sikora is in a wheelchair and can't get to the front of the room, therefore he is sitting in the back.] Also, he wants to make the state take better care of children in state custody, who need adoptive parents.

Questions: As to the eminent domain decision, O'Neill and Espy denounce the use of eminent domain to help private development interests. Wagner talks instead about a Supreme Court ruling that substitutes the Courts of Appeals' judgment for jury verdicts, and talks about how the Supreme Court is hurting jobs and the economy. Sikora says the Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain is bad, so we must elect both Justices and legislators who will give us the kind of property laws we want.

As to the proposed ban on gay adoptions, Sikora says that before any restriction is placed on adoption we must be able to find the adoptive parents Ohio's children in state custody need. Wagner mentions his endorsement by the Stonewall Democrats and says that he stands for equal treatment for all. Espy says the most important thing about adoption is finding a loving home, so he opposes the ban. O'Neill says he is an adoptive parent of a bi-racial child. He attacks state government as promoting a radical right-wing agenda. "Of course gay parents can be loving parents." He defies legislators who support the ban to come forward and say how many children they personally have adopted.

On school funding, Wagner says it is key for the Supreme Court to give specific guidance to the legislature, pointing out which parts of a statute need to be replaced. (This did not happen in the Court's rulings on the school financing case.) He would support appointing a special master to resolve the case. Espy says the Court has failed to supply a remedy for the identified wrong, and that is why they have had to rule four times. If the case had been filed in federal court, the court would have imposed a remedy. The Court has politicized the case, and must instead impose a remedy. O'Neill disagrees with Espy, saying that the Court has failed to enforce its decisions. The problem isn't that the Court didn't state a remedy, it's that the Court has failed to sanction the legislature for not fixing the problem in accordance with its orders. The Court must take a stand. Sikora talks about the lack of checks and balances under one-party rule. We only have one Democrat on the Court. The deadlock between the Court and the legislature over school funding reflects the lack of two-party participation in government.


At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked what Sikora said about how it's too bad we can't elect all four of them. Good to see you today, Jeff!

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Jill said...

Hi Jeff - you even put a picture up of Peter. Aw. Very cool. Thanks for blogging all this info. VERY helpful. We get so little about the judges usually. Definitely a place where blogs can provide unique coverage.


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