Gov. John Kasich announced on Thursday that he would appoint Mary DeGenaro, a justice on the Seventh District Court of Appeals in Youngstown, to the bench of the Ohio Supreme Court. She will fill the vacancy being left by Bill O'Neill, who's stepping down Friday to run for the Democratic nomination for governor.
DeGenaro, a Republican, served on the Seventh District for 17 years, and as presiding judge of that court for two terms. Previously, she was a professor at Youngstown State University and practiced law privately for 14 years. And the Ohio Repubican Party already endorsed her to run for the court this year.
“I am mindful of and humbled by the responsibility you have given me on behalf of all the citizens of the state of Ohio," DeGenaro said on Thursday. "I will work diligently, fairly and collegially with the other justices on the court. And I will do my part to make sure the public continues to have confidence in their Supreme Court.”
Though DeGenaro's appointment leaves the Ohio Supreme Court an all-Republican bench, she told Kasich she does not take into account political considerations or parties when deciding cases. He said he was impressed by her depth of experience in law.
"We need to find people that can look at the law, understand the Constitution, make an interpretation on the bench that is not going to be viewed as a partisan determination," Kasich said.
According to Kasich, DeGenaro was selected by a committee that included people from both inside and outside the governor's office. Her appointment also means that women will make up the majority of the Ohio Supreme Court.
O'Neill's exit leaves Sen. Sherrod Brown as the only Democrat elected to a statewide office. Republican lawmakers in the Ohio Senate tried to oust O'Neill early, saying he should have stepped down weeks ago. O'Neill said he's not officially a candidate in the governor's race until he files in early February.