1 Comment · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Ohio is a swing state, but there is very
little in our state government that reflects that right now. Republicans
dominate the General Assembly. Republicans dominate the governorship
and other executive positions. The Ohio Supreme Court is no different.
It is currently dominated by Republican justices in a striking 6-1
by German Lopez
Former judge demands Ohio Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from FirstEnergy case
In a letter sent today to Ohio Supreme Court justices Robert Cupp and
Terrence O’Donnell, former Judge William O’Neill asked the Republican
justices to recuse themselves from a case presenting conflicts of interest or
refuse the campaign money that caused the conflicts of interest to begin
“The First Energy Family has contributed more than
$44,000.00 into re-election campaigns for Justices Cupp and O’Donnell
this year alone,” O’Neill, a Democrat who is running for the Ohio
Supreme Court, wrote. “It is simply wrong for them to continue sitting
on First Energy cases.”
The Ohio Supreme Court, which has seven justices decide
the state’s top judicial cases, is currently handling a case
involving FirstEnergy, an energy company based in Akron. More than
300,000 customers are suing the company over alleged fraud. The 11th
District Court of Appeals previously ruled against FirstEnergy, and the case was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The lawsuit is the fifth Ohio Supreme Court case involving FirstEnergy this year.
O’Neill pointed out the lawsuit “could easily be a billion
dollar case” before writing, “And the public has a right to know that
the ruling was not purchased by one side or another.”
Ohio Sen. Mike Skindell, a Democrat who is also running
for the Ohio Supreme Court, endorsed O’Neill’s letter. In the past, he
also criticized Cupp and O’Donnell for potential conflicts of interest.The offices of Cupp and O'Donnell did not immediately respond to CityBeat's requests for comment on the letter. This story will be updated if responses become available.UPDATE OCT. 4, 4:12 P.M.: Mark Weaver, spokesperson for Cupp, responded: “Mr. O'Neill previously raised this argument with disciplinary authorities by filing a complaint. It was reviewed by disciplinary authorities, and they unanimously dismissed it as having no merit.”
by German Lopez
More bad news for Secretary of State Jon Husted. The Ohio Supreme Court
told Husted his approved ballot language for Issue 2 contains “factual
inaccuracies” and must be rewritten by the Ballot Board. Voters First
previously contested the language as misleading to voters. If
approved by voters, Issue 2 will put an independent citizens commission
in charge of redistricting. Under the current system, state officials
redraw borders, sometimes using the process for political advantage. In
Cincinnati’s district, the Republican-controlled process redrew the
district to include Warren County, giving the district more rural voters
that tend to side with Republicans instead of urban voters that tend to
side with Democrats. Voters First mocked the process with a graph
showing how redistricting decisions can sometimes be made in 13 minutes
with no questions asked. CityBeat covered the redistricting process here when Issue 2 was still in the petition process.
Ohio’s median income dropped last year, according to a new
report from the U.S. Census Bureau. But rates of poverty and uninsured
rates remained the same. Nationwide, uninsured rates dropped from 16.3
percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011, meaning 1.4 million people
gained health coverage. Some of that is attributable to health-care reform passed by President Barack Obama.Former University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams is
getting a pretty nice going-away present. The Board of Trustees approved
a package for Williams that adds up to more than $1.2 million. It
includes a bonus, retirement benefits, consulting fees, a year’s salary
and a contract buyout. Williams abruptly left UC on Aug. 21, citing
Homeless shelters will cost more than expected, says 3CDC.
The nonprofit group said it will cost about $40 million to build three
homeless shelters and help finance others.
With the support of Democrats and Republicans, the Ohio
legislature approved pension reforms yesterday. The reforms lower benefits, raise
contributions requirements, increase the retirement eligibility age, establish new cost-of-living guidelines and set a new
formula to calculate benefits, all for future retirees. For the most part, current retirees are
not affected. Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, said, “We know
the changes are not popular, but they are necessary.” Before the
changes, the system was losing $1 million a day, according to a
statement from Rep. Robert Hagan, a Democrat.Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is pushing against banks that
take advantage of college students. In a letter to Higher One, Brown
told the bank to rework its contracts with universities. Brown wrote in
the letter, “Federal student aid programs should help students prepare
for the future, not extract fee income from them.” He went on to ask the
bank to redo its contracts so they are “consumer-friendly and
consistent with reforms that Congress enacted for the credit card
market.”Ohio’s inspector general found ODJFS wrongly reimbursed
organizations in central Ohio with federal stimulus funds when the
organizations did not follow rules.Vice President Joe Biden was in Dayton yesterday. During his speech, he spoke about the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, which led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Biden vowed justice will be served.Presidential candidate Mitt Romney unleashed a big foreign
policy gaffe yesterday when he politicized the attack on the U.S.
embassy in Libya. The attack was revealed to cause the death of Stevens after Romney made his comments.Math shows homeopathy, a trend in medicine, is implausible.
by Hannah McCartney
Death Penalty Task Force approves changes to prevent discrimination
Ohio’s death penalty came under scrutiny again today, when the Ohio Supreme Court's Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty heard presentations from three different subcommittees on strategies to make sure the process in administering a death penalty sentence in Ohio is transparent and fair. The task force heard presentations from the Law Enforcement Subcommittee, Race and Ethnicity Subcommittee and Clemency Subcommittee; the Clemency Subcommittee's recommendation was passed, while the Law Enforcement Subcommittee's recommendations were tabled for the next task force meeting, pending further review. The Race and Ethnicity Subcommittee presented recommendations for dealing with evidence of longstanding racial bias in Ohio death penalty cases. A 2005 Associated Press study concluded that offenders
who killed white victims were significantly more likely to receive
the death penalty than when victims were black, regardless of the race
of the defendant. See the below chart, courtesy of the Associated Press, which charts the rate of death sentencing for defendants charged with killing white versus black victims during the course of the study, which was conducted from Oct. 1981-2002. The Supreme Court’s Race and Ethnicity subcommittee made seven recommendations, three of which passed. Those passed include a mandate that all attorneys and judges in death penalty cases attend training to detect and protect against racial bias, and that attorneys must seek recusal of judges who are suspected of being motivated by racially discriminatory factors. Implementing the recommendations won't be immediate; according to Bret Crow, Public Information Officer for the Supreme Court of Ohio, task forces typically submit a final report to the Ohio Supreme Court for input, a process that might not be completed until into 2013. Recommendations that were tabled to be reconsidered at a Sept. 27 meeting of the task force included the recommendation that all death penalty-eligible homicide cases be maintained and monitored for evidence of racial bias by the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. According to the Associated Press,
the data collection would apply to both old cases and any future
homicides that could result in death penalty allegations. It wouldn’t, however, impact whether or not the death penalty should be an option of punishment in the state of Ohio. Ohio’s death penalty has come under fire several times over the last year, even experiencing an extended moratorium on executions set forth by a U.S. District Judge, who ruled that Ohio unconstitutionally wasn’t following its own death penalty procedure and couldn’t be trusted to ethically carry out executions. CityBeat reported on July 3 about the avoided execution of Abdul Awkal, a Muslim who narrowly escaped his death penalty sentence with the help of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC). Awkal was ruled not competent enough to be executed after making several statements suggesting he didn’t understand the reason for his execution.
by Danny Cross
The Ohio Supreme Court
late last week dismissed a legal challenge by the Campaign to Protect
Marriage, which had filed a motion challenging the attorney general’s
authority to verify a proposed constitutional amendment that would
allow same-sex marriage. The Freedom to Marry coalition is collecting
the necessary signatures to put a repeal of the state’s 2004
amendment that only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman
on the ballot in 2013.
City Councilman Wendell
Young says there’s nothing secret about a plan to combine the
region’s water and sewer agencies even though most people assumed
to be needed for approval know little about it. The Enquirer today
detailed a plan to integrate the Metropolitan Sewer District,
Stormwater Management Utility and Greater Cincinnati Water Works,
potentially by September, in an attempt to save money. The plan will
reportedly be shared with Council June 20.
campaign plans to go after the stimulus, while Dems want to know why
he won’t renounce questions about Obama’s citizenship (maybe
because they came from Donald Trump?).
Seems like the John
Edwards trial is never going to end. Day seven of deliberations begins today.
The U.S. could be one
of the countries to benefit from the growth of natural gas use during
the next 20 years, potentially reducing the importance of Middle East
might help protect against skin cancer. Bring on the nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen!
There was a
face-chewing attack in Miami over the weekend. And the chewer was
Google Chrome was the
world’s top browser in May. Thought you knew.
If commercial space
flights are going to be basting up onto the moon, NASA says they’ll
have to stay off the spots where historical things happened.
by Kevin Osborne
Complaint upheld against Rucker's opponent
A judicial conduct panel ruled this week that the primary election opponent of a local Municipal Court judge knowingly misrepresented himself in campaign materials.The panel decided that retired appellate court judge William O’Neill from Cleveland left the impression that he is a current judge in a two-sided campaign card he distributed. In fact, O’Neill now works as an emergency room nurse at a hospital.O’Neill and Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon Rucker are vying to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Ohio Supreme Court.Whoever wins the March 6 primary election will face off against incumbent Justice Robert Cupp, a Republican, in the November general election.The three-judge panel upheld the complaint filed by Richard Dove, secretary of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. The panel said O’Neill’s campaign card refers to him nine times as “judge,’’ while describing him as “former court of appeals judge’’ once.“The fact that he is known as judge because of his tenure on the 11th District Court of Appeals and that as a retired judge he is known as a judge, he nevertheless as a judicial candidate is prohibited from using the term ‘judge’ before his name in campaign materials since he does not currently hold that office,’’ wrote Guernsey County Common Pleas Judge David Ellwood, who chaired the three-judge panel.The panel recommended no discipline for O’Neill other than he stop distributing the card. A 5th District Court of Appeals judge must appoint a panel of five fellow appellate judges within the next week to consider the lower panel’s recommendations and make a final decision.Rucker is the Ohio Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, but O’Neil has twice before — in different races — had party leaders rescind an endorsement and give it to him.O’Neill has run twice for the state Supreme Court — in 2004 and 2006 — and then Congress in 2008 and 2010. Although he has won in the primaries, O’Neill has lost in the general elections.Local Democratic Party leaders are criticizing O’Neill, stating he is moving too slowly to remove misleading material from his campaign website.“While Mr. O’Neill promised Monday to make the required corrections, as of this writing on Wednesday, Feb. 29, his website remains unchanged,” Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke wrote in a statement issued Wednesday night.“This is not the kind of conduct we as Democrats should condone by any of our candidates, especially candidates running for a seat on the highest court of our state,” Burke added. “Ohioans deserve a Supreme Court candidate who not only understands the law, but respects it as well.”For more on the O’Neill/Rucker race, see this week’s issue of CityBeat.