COLUMBUS (Legal Newsline) - The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has certified a petition that would impose terms limits on the State Supreme Court.
The Committee to Impose term limits on the Ohio Supreme Court and to Preclude Special Legal Status for for Members and Employees of the Ohio General Assembly wants members of the state Supreme Court to have a nine-year term limit.
The petition was brought forward Oct. 26 and had the necessary 1,000 valid signatures and “fair and truthful” summary required for Attorney General Mike DeWine to sign off.
The petition will be a ballot measure in the next election. Although the legislature will not vote on the issue, some members still voiced concerns about the initiative.
State Rep. Nicholas Celebrezze (D-Parma) is a family and public law attorney and serves on the Judiciary Committee. Celebrezze is strongly opposed to term limits of any kind.
"I support the term limits of the election cycle,” Celebrezze told Legal Newsline.
He added that if the voters are no longer satisfied with the job he’s doing, then they have the choice not to re-elect him.
The only limitation currently imposed on the Ohio Supreme Court is an age limit of 70. Celebrezze voted against this limitation and would vote against the current petition if it came to the legislature.
“I think it could potentially cause corruption on the bench,” Celebrezze said.
He fears that once the term limit is up, members of the court will be looking for new jobs. They could possibly vote in favor of a party because it could lead to a job prospect after their term.
In addition, Celebrezze said longevity on the court leads to stronger judges.
“Life experience in legal settings adds a lot,” Celebrezze said. “If every 12 years there is a massive change on the court, institutional knowledge and judicial consistency are gone.”
Finally, Celebrezze said imposing term limits definitely takes away the power of the people to vote for whomever they want and said he’s seen no abuse of power on the court that would warrant this amendment.
The petition also asked that lawmakers and legislative employees must follow the same state laws as other residents of the state. The Ohio Constitution currently states in Article II that members of the General Assembly may be impeached for any misdemeanor while in office and that Ohio laws must be enforced uniformly across the state.
On Nov. 14, the state ballot board voted to split the two issues into two separate initiatives despite the committee’s lawsuit against the board’s action.
Each initiative will need 305,591 valid signatures, making it harder for the committee to get enough signatures for both amendments.
“I’m uncertain it could pass on the ballot,” Celebrezze said. “I hope it would not.”