Ohio Bar commission rates state high court candidates

Jessica M. Karmasek Jun. 7, 2012, 1:40pm




COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - The Ohio State Bar's Commission on Judicial Candidates released its state Supreme Court candidate evaluations Wednesday, giving Butler County Domestic Relations Judge Sharon Kennedy its lowest rating.

Kennedy, a Republican, is challenging Justice Yvette McGee Brown, a Democrat who was appointed to the state's high court in 2011.

According to the commission's assessment, Brown was rated "highly recommended." Kennedy was "not recommended."

"I come from the front lines as a police officer and trial judge, standing firm for the Constitution, and that doesn't always make me popular, but that's what's right for the Ohio Supreme Court," Kennedy told the Toledo Blade.

The last time the commission gave a Supreme Court candidate such a low rating was in 1998. It was given to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Ron Suster, a Democrat, the Blade reported.

However, a slightly different ratings system was in place at the time, the newspaper noted.

Meanwhile, Justices Robert Cupp and Terrence O'Donnell were rated "highly recommended" and "recommended," respectively.

Cupp will face William O'Neill, a Democrat who served 10 years on the state's 11th District Court of Appeals from 1997 to 2007, in the Nov. 6 general election.

O'Neill also received a "recommended" rating from the commission.

The Bar's 25-member panel, chaired by past-president Barbara J. Howard, evaluated each of the candidates according to eight non-political criteria: legal knowledge and ability; professional competence; judicial temperament; integrity; diligence; health; personal responsibility; and public/community service.

Howard explained that the evaluation process rates each candidate individually according to the eight criteria.

The individual rating process, she noted, makes it possible for two or more candidates to receive the same rating.

Candidates who receive favorable evaluations from less than 60 percent of commission members are rated "not recommended." This means a candidate's qualifications are not suited to perform the duties and responsibilities of chief justice or justice of the Supreme Court, Howard said.

To receive a "recommended" rating, a favorable vote of at least 60 percent of commission members is required. This candidate, Howard explained, would be able to perform satisfactorily as the chief justice or a justice of the Court.

To receive a "highly recommended" rating, a favorable vote of at least 70 percent of commission members is needed.

Such a candidate, Howard said, possesses a high combination of legal knowledge and ability, professional competence, judicial temperament, integrity, diligence, personal responsibility and demonstrated public and community service, and would be capable of "outstanding performance" as the chief justice or a justice.

If a candidate were to receive favorable votes from at least 80 percent of commission members, he or she would be awarded a "superior" rating.

This candidate, Howard said, has the "highest combination" of legal knowledge and ability, professional competence, judicial temperament, integrity, diligence, personal responsibility and demonstrated public and community service.

None of this year's candidates received a "superior" rating.

In rating the five Court candidates, the commission said it reviewed references and materials submitted by the candidates and conducted personal inquiries among lawyers, judges and other sources. It also interviewed the candidates in person and determined its ratings by secret ballot.

The commission, itself, is composed of Howard, as chair, and one representative from each of the Bar's 18 geographic districts.

Additionally, six at-large members who "reflect the diversity of the organization's 25,000 lawyer members" serve as appointees of the Bar president and board of governors.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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