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LWV League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund

Smart Voter
Ohio State Government November 2, 2010 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
Judge; Ohio State Supreme Court; 6 Year Term Starting 1/1/11

The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of Ohio and asked of all candidates for this office.     See below for questions on Judicial independence, Recusing, Justice obstacles

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

? 1. How do you define "judicial independence", and how important is it to our judicial system? What measures ensure an independent judiciary?

Answer from Judith Ann Lanzinger:

Judicial independence, the foundation of the third branch of government, does not mean that judges may decide cases however they wish. It means that judges must adhere to the rule of law no matter how their decisions may be viewed by the public. Supreme Court justices and other judges, although elected by voters, cannot ―represent‖ any particular group or advocate any particular position. We are judges, not legislators or members of the executive branch. Our judicial oath says we must administer cases under the law, "without respect to persons." This means that all parties to a case deserve to be heard and have their arguments considered by unbiased and impartial deciders. Information and education helps citizens understand that an independent judiciary allows courts to be fair and strive to give equal access to justice under law.

Answer from Mary Jane Trapp:

The framers of our Constitution developed a system of government that would avoid the centralization of power in any one person or institution. The role of the judiciary is judicial review; to follow the rule of law and check abuses of that law by the executive and legislative branches. This concept is not written in the Constitution. It has been developed over time in the common law tradition through case law. Judges do not legislate. They should not create out of whole cloth laws that have been non-existent in the state. Ultimately though, ―judicial independence‖ means that it is the job of the court to be the chief interpreter and arbiter of the Constitution. To ensure an impartial judiciary not influence by political or special interests we must look at proposals for reform which include consideration of public financing, wide distribution of League of Women Voters` informational voter guides, a stronger recusal rule, and increased objective qualifications for judges.

? 2. Would you recuse yourself if a party before you had made a significant judicial campaign expenditure toward your election? Please explain.

Answer from Judith Ann Lanzinger:

Under Ohio law, individuals (spouses, individual attorneys, etc) may contribute up to $3,450 to a Supreme Court candidate while political action committees and law firms may contribute up to $6,325. These limits, presumed to be reasonable, are followed, so there is no likelihood that a significant judicial campaign expenditure‖ would prevent me from sitting on a case. My record shows that I do not participate in any cases in which my children or son-in-law are counsel of record. I have recused myself from considering discretionary review of cases on which my opponent (an appellate judge) has written an opinion. I do not participate in an appeal if I have been a trial judge on the case. In short, I will recuse, sua sponte, when there is possibility that a reasonable person would believe I could not be impartial.

Answer from Mary Jane Trapp:

I would recuse myself when there is a ―serious and objective risk of actual bias‖ that arises when a party ― with a personal stake in a particular case had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds or directing the judge`s election campaign when the case was pending or imminent.‖ This is the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Massey Coal case.

? 3. What do you perceive to be the greatest obstacle to justice in Ohio?

Answer from Mary Jane Trapp:

Assuring affordable and equal access to justice. In my travels as state bar President and now as an appellate judge, Ohioans tell me they want to have confidence in their courts. They want a fair and impartial justice system in which to resolve disputes and protect their rights. Ohioans facing barriers to access necessarily lose confidence in the judicial system. Moreover, as the late Chief Justice Moyer explained, ―The idea of a multiple-judge court certainly is that the process includes people of different backgrounds, different philosophies, different views on issues, and the perception of an all-Republican court is that we don`t have that.‖ We must meet the unmet legal needs of working families. The rule regulating how cases are tried, 24 regulating the lawyers and judges, and regulating court operations must promote confidence in our judicial system, fair and impartial decision-making, and efficient, economical, and transparent operations.

Answer from Judith Ann Lanzinger:

When I taught in Moscow for the National Judicial College, former Soviet Union judges were amazed to be told that American courts have no army to enforce decisions, but because people believe in and respect our courts, they abide by their rulings. Since the rule of law depends on the belief and confidence of the public in an impartial and fair judiciary, I think that the greatest obstacle to justice is misperception and misunderstanding of the third branch of government. For that reason, in a non-political blog, I am currently writing about law, civics and the judicial system. The more people know about how judges work and how the courts actually function, the more interested they will be. And greater interest should make courts even better.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' statements are presented as submitted. Word limits apply for each question. 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 6, 2011 15:02 PST
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