Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton announced today that she will be stepping down from the Supreme Court of Ohio at the end of the year, two years before the end of her term. She has been on the Court for 16 years. According to her letter of resignation, she intends to focus her work on mental health and veterans issues. This should come as no surprise, as Stratton has long been interested in mental health issues. Last August, while joining the majority in affirming a death penalty conviction in State v. Lang, she made an impassioned plea to ban the execution of those who are seriously mentally ill when they commit their crimes. In the Lang case, Stratton acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to decide the constitutionality of imposing the death penalty on those who are seriously mentally ill at the time of the commission of a crime. But she argued that the same “evolving standards of decency” which prohibit the execution of juveniles and the mentally retarded should prohibit execution of the severely mentally ill.
Governor Kasich will appoint Stratton’s successor to the reminder of her unexpired term. It will be interesting to see if Hamilton County Court of Appeals Judge Pat Fisher makes a bid for this seat, as he is known to be interested in serving on the high court, and has been making the rounds of the state as president-elect of the Ohio State Bar Association. There haven’t been many justices from this neck of the woods.