Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters Will Become Ohio's Supreme Court Justice Despite Never Having Been a Judge

Deters is expected to side with other GOP members on the court in major cases about abortion rights, redistricting and LGBTQ+ rights.

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click to enlarge Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will be Ohio's next Supreme Court Justice, despite never having served as a judge. - Photo: Hamilton County Livestream
Photo: Hamilton County Livestream
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will be Ohio's next Supreme Court Justice, despite never having served as a judge.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has never been a judge, will be Ohio's next Supreme Court Justice, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Dec. 22.

Deters, 65, will be sworn in on Jan. 7 and will bring the court to a 4-3 conservative majority. He  fills the seat of Justice Sharon Kennedy after her ascent to Chief Justice was decided by voters in November. Deters is expected to side with other GOP members on the court in major cases coming in 2023, including those on abortion rights, redistricting and LGBTQ+ rights.

“It is the honor of a lifetime to accept this appointment to the Ohio Supreme Court,” said Deters in a press release. “I have spent my entire career standing up for victims and protecting the rights of criminal defendants. I appreciate the trust and responsibility that comes with this appointment and look forward to working with my colleagues on the Supreme Court to ensure Ohio’s justice system protects the rights of all Ohioans.”

Deters has deep roots in Cincinnati. He graduated from St. Xavier High School in 1975, the University of Cincinnati in 1979 and the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1982.
“Joe Deters has the right combination of experience, legal knowledge, and passion for public service that will serve the citizens of Ohio well as an associate justice of the Ohio Supreme Court,” DeWine said in a press release. “Joe is a long-serving and well-regarded public servant who is known for his legal intellect, reverence for the rule of law, and his accessibility.”

Deters has 25 years of tough-on-crime legal work under his belt, serving Hamilton County as prosecutor from 1992-1999 and again from 2005 to now. Before that, he was the state treasurer from 1999 to 2004 and was elected clerk of courts in Hamilton County in 1998.

But as Morgan Trau, a statehouse reporter at Cleveland's WEWS-TV, pointed out during a Dec. 22 news conference in Columbus, Deters has no actual experience as a judge and is good friends with the DeWine family.

“You are appointing somebody to the Supreme Court who has no judicial experience and who is a friend of the family. Can you walk me through that decision-making process?” Trau asked the governor.

“Sure, I chose Joe Deters because I know him, I trust him,” DeWine responded. “The idea that you have to be a judge to be on the Ohio Supreme Court, it certainly is not written anywhere, nor does common sense indicate that that should be a qualification.”

His appointment creates a vacancy in the local prosecutor's position. The Hamilton County Republican Party will  select someone to fill the role until the next general election in Nov. 2024.


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