Even though judicial races are considered nonpartisan in Ohio, judicial campaigns are usually funded with campaign contributions. A government watchdog group published a report saying that once they’re on the bench, judges don’t recuse themselves when hearing a case involving those donors.
Common Cause’s Catherine Turcer says the report, which was released October 1, shows judges continue to hear cases involving their contributors and more often than not, rule in favor of them. She’s quick to say that doesn’t mean justice is for sale, but she says it doesn’t look good for the judicial system.
“Unless you have the guardrails in place to make sure all judges step away so they don’t hear the cases of their campaign contributors, all Ohioans are going to wonder about their impartiality,” Turcer says.
Turcer says other states have those guardrails. She says more transparency will help and says there are ways Ohio could set standards for recusal that would insure fairness.
From January to October 2018, the four candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court raised around $884,700 between them, according to campaign finance filings.