Ohio residents should be confident that the state Supreme Court justice they elect will apply the law as it’s written and not legislate from the bench.
That’s become an issue in the race between Republican Pat DeWine and Democrat Cynthia Rice. The two are facing off in the Nov. 8 general election to replace Republican Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, who will step down after reaching the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.
We believe DeWine is the better choice as a constitutional conservative and have concerns about Rice dancing around the issue.
Rice told The Lima News that she recognizes the court’s role in government — “We don’t legislate; we don’t write laws.” But that statement conflicts with other remarks she’s made. During a luncheon earlier this year with Hardin County Democrats, Rice professed, “I don’t think you can ignore any constitutional guidance we have. Is it subject to interpretation at times? At times, yes. It’s a living breathing document that’s been with us for over 200 years.”
DeWine doesn’t get our endorsement by a knockout, however.
We have concerns about DeWine’s “not recommended” rating from the 25-member review panel of the Ohio State Bar Association. The ratings are based on legal knowledge and ability; professional competence and judicial temperament. Candidates who receive less than 60 percent of votes are ranked as “not recommended,” which the bar said signifies their qualifications “are not suited” to serve on the Supreme Court. Those who receive more than 70 percent of votes, such as Rice, are rated “highly recommended.”
DeWine would not address the rating, other than to say it was “partisan politics.” Only one of the current seven Ohio justices — Sharon Kennedy — had such a low rating.
The rating is surprising given that DeWine currently serves as a judge on the First District Court of Appeals, has experience as a Common Pleas Court judge, and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class from the highly regarded University of Michigan Law School. DeWine also worked for 13 years with Keating, Muething & Klekamp, one of Cincinnati’s top law firms
Rice prides herself on coming from a blue-collar family and working her way through college as a waitress and factory worker. Rice has been a judge for 14 years and spent more than a decade as a prosecutor.