Progressive Supreme Court Justices on the Ballot in Ohio

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Judge's gavel

This November, Ohioans have big choices to make, not only for top ballot positions but also for two of the seven state Supreme Court seats. During the general election, a candidate’s political affiliation is not listed. However, during the primary, all elections are partisan, so voters can fairly easily figure out to which party the candidates align. 

The current court consists of five Republicans and  two Democrats. Two of the Republican judges are in contested elections this year. This has set off alarm bells with conservatives, who fear losing their majority. reports that the Ohio Business Roundtable has sent the CEOs of Ohio’s largest companies a series of emails that are intended to go into approximately 400,000 employees’ inboxes. These messages, according to a former Republican member of Congress, who is now the roundtable’s president and CEO, are meant to “‘underscore the importance to your business and their job security of having a stable [state] Supreme Court.” 

This scare tactic further politicizes justice and undermines confidence in court rulings. This year, the court will hear important cases ranging from election issues, to criminal justice reform, to workers’ rights, to congressional redistricting. 

According to Judicial Votes Count, three in five Ohio voters skip voting for judges, saying they don’t know enough about the candidates. Use this guide to learn more about the two Democrats seeking to serve Ohio residents.

Chief Justice Ohio State Supreme Court Candidate, Judge Jennifer Brunner 

“Justice involves lifting up our shared history, hopes and visions for the future, respecting one another amidst our great diversity—and tolerance rooted in love.”

A native Ohioan, Judge Jennifer Brunner currently serves on the 10th District Appellate Court, and is the former secretary of state, the first woman to serve in that capacity. Judge Brunner has years of experience in election law, evaluating and rectifying state election systems, campaign finance law, and a myriad of small business concerns. The law is Brunner’s career, but her avocation is public service. 

In 2008, she received the John F. Kennedy Award Profile in Courage for her public service work. “I am so very pleased to receive this endorsement. The Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund fights daily for a just and equitable democracy and for laws that protect Ohio’s air, land, and water. The judiciary must stand firm in protecting and preserving that democracy and ensuring the efficacy of those laws,” said Judge Brunner.

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Ohio Supreme Court Candidate, Judge John P. O’Donnell

“There’s a Third Branch for a reason.”

One judge on the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, one of Ohio’s busiest, Judge John P. O’Donnell has presided over felony criminal cases and civil lawsuits. In 2008, the Republican chief justice of the state Supreme Court appointed O’Donnell to be one of eight judges presiding over a commercial docket that focused on business litigation. There he oversaw more than 2,000 disputes while still handling civil and felony criminal trials.

O’Donnell has faced criticism for his 2015 acquittal of a police officer in the 2012 deaths of two Black motorists, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Despite that ruling, O’Donnell believes that racial inequities need to be addressed, not by “conversation” as his Republican opponent has suggested, but through a more activist role. He’s also focused on ensuring that Ohio’s urban areas, particularly Cleveland, are no longer dominated by rural, mostly white residents. 

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To read more about the importance of electing progressive judges, read here.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

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