Ohio chief justice pick draws criticism

Chris Rizo Apr. 15, 2010, 3:10am

Eric Brown (D)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland on Wednesday gave a candidate for state Supreme Court chief justice the post on a temporary basis, sparking criticism that the governor needlessly injected politics into the court.

The governor appointed Franklin County Probate Court Judge Eric Brown, a fellow Democrat, to serve as the high court's administrative head, following the unexpected death this month of Chief Justice Thomas Moyer at age 70.

Brown, 56, will assume his duties May 3, and will serve the remaining eight months of Moyer's term. As chief justice, Brown's salary will be $150,850. He will be the lone Democrat on the seven-member court.

Strickland said Brown's experience as head of the largest single-judge court in Ohio and his previous posts as a magistrate and judge at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and as an assistant state attorney general makes him qualified to lead the state's judicial branch.

"It is with great sadness that we face a vacancy on Ohio's high court after the death of a friend and extraordinary public servant," Strickland said. "But I believe that Eric is now the best person to serve as chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. Eric's 30 years of public service combined with his management experience and legal knowledge and expertise, inside and outside of government, make him uniquely qualified to lead the court."

Even before the appointment, Brown was running for a six-year term as state Supreme Court chief justice against Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican former lieutenant governor who has served on the Supreme Court since 2002.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine decried Brown's appointment, which will undoubtedly help Brown boost his campaign fundraising efforts and name recognition among voters before the November election.

"Chief Justice Moyer spent his entire judicial career working to remove partisan politics from the bench, and Ted Strickland could barely wait three days after his funeral to start trashing that legacy," DeWine said in a statement. "It says something about the governor's terrible judgment when he chooses a political candidate with less than five years of judicial experience to head the state's highest court."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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