By Kristin Rover
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor spoke about the importance of judicial reform during a luncheon with the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce Jan. 10.
“I am excited to go out and speak to organizations not necessarily in the legal profession,” O’Connor said. “And make you aware of issues including how we choose members of the judiciary.”
O’Connor said she believes it is important to have an impartial judiciary that is not influenced by politics or any other information.
O’Connor said individuals should select their judges by researching them and looking at the experience they have as well as the decisions they have made.
She said that unfortunately, many voters do not research judges nor do they vote for judges.
“When you ask how people want to select their judges, they say vote,” O’Connor said. “But yet when they have the option, they don’t vote.”
O’Connor said 25 to 30 percent of voters don’t pass a ballot for members of the judiciary. She said voter drop off is big a problem.
“We have to combat that,” O’Connor said. “We need to bolster the presence of the judiciary in the minds of electors.”
O’Connor said some of the solutions she has come up with include moving the placement of judges on the ballot. She said they are currently at the end of the ballot, which may contribute to voters not making a selection.
“Let’s see how we can maybe rotate it,” O’Connor said.
She said another solution she believes in is putting judges on the ballot in odd number years.
“In even years we are combating gubernatorial, presidential and other races,” O’Connor said.
She said that the attention is often on these candidates, which leaves less media coverage and other information outlets for judges to utilize.
“Dollars can be better spent because you won’t be competing with the media frenzy of other office holders,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said another way to help with the election process is to have an outlet where citizens can obtain information about the judges.
“Have a repository of information and have that available online to log on and read about that individual,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said with at least 30 days to research candidates, individuals should be able to make an educated decision.
She even suggested citizens host an election party with friends to research and discuss candidates.
“I really think odd number year coupled with civic education could go a long way,” she said.
O’Connor briefly discussed increasing term limits for judges and also addressed age limits for judges.
O’Connor took time to thank Clermont County judges and thanked them for their hard work
She answered questions from the audience and said she was glad to be able to speak with the business community.
“This is an audience of people who have shown they are engaged in the community,” O’Connor said.
Cynthia Macke, director of sales and marketing of the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce, said they were glad to have O’Connor come speak.
“Judicial reform is something that needs attention,” Macke said. “We are happy to give her a venue to share,” Macke said.