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LWV League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund

Smart Voter
Ohio State Government November 4, 2008 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
Justice; Ohio State Supreme Court; 6 Year Term Starting 1/1/09

The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area and asked of all candidates for this office.     See below for questions on Campaign Contributions, Access to Legal System

Click on a name for candidate information.   See also more information about this contest.

? 1. What is your response to research indicating that judicial decisions tend to favor large campaign contributors?

Answer from Maureen O'Connor:

I do not agree that objective research indicates that decisions of the courts favor campaign contributors. Contributions follow the philosophy of a justice, not the other way around. There are limits on the dollar amount for contributions. These amounts are deemed reasonable and as long as Ohio maintains an elected selection process for our judiciary and the contributors follow the law on campaign limits and there is open disclosure, the system should work as it is intended.

Answer from Joseph D. Russo:

I am very concerned by public surveys that find that 83% of voters believe campaign contributions influence the decisions of the Ohio Supreme Court. Numerous newspaper articles have pointed to a correlation between campaign contributions and the votes of members of our Court. The New York Times in the article "Campaign Cash Mirrors a High Court's Rulings" points to a correlation between campaign contributions and individual Ohio Supreme Court Justice's votes in judicial decisions in Ohio. In that article, the Times states that Ohio Supreme Court Justices "routinely sat on cases after receiving campaign contributions from the parties involved" and "on average . . . voted in favor of contributors 70 percent of the time." ...(rest of answer doesn't follow guidelines.)

? 2. Do you believe that all Ohioans have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not, what can be done to provide wider and better access?

Answer from Maureen O'Connor:

Ohio has a good system of representation for those who are unable to afford legal representation. Our members of the bar are generous in their efforts to provide services. Having said that I believe that any system can be improved upon and ours is no exception. The bar in Ohio is encouraged to participate in rendering pro bono services. I believe that an expansion of the program to start in law school will assist in creating and expanding a culture of pro bono representation among the new lawyers.

Answer from Joseph D. Russo:

Ohioans do not have adequate access to legal help. There are several ways to provide wider and better access. First, for simple cases, we must make forms and instruction available to the general public, as they have in Maricopa County, Arizona, where they have thrown open the doors of the courthouse to the general public with help from court staff and law school students to enable the general public to access the legal system and settle their simple disputes often without the help of a lawyer. In addition, I believe that we must properly fund our legal clinics throughout the state so that the public has access to attorneys to handle more intricate legal matters. Finally, a rule requiring every attorney in the State, as part of their Continuing Legal Education requirements, to provide pro bono services to the public should be considered.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' statements are presented as submitted. The answer must not exceed 100 words. Direct references to opponents are not permitted.

The order of the candidates is random and changes daily. Candidates who did not respond are not listed on this page.

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Created: January 24, 2009 10:48 PST
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