Cincinnati Sends Two New Justices to the Supreme Court of Ohio: A Historical Perspective

Supreme Court justices are elected statewide in Ohio. Cincinnati, my hometown, hasn’t sent many justices to the Ohio high court in recent years, and now we are sending two. In the election for the two open seats being vacated by the retiring Justices Paul Pfeifer and Judy Lanzinger, First District Court of Appeals Judges Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer will be joining the court in January. (The First District Court of Appeals is my former stomping ground.)  DeWine was declared the winner of his race right away; Fischer, who was locked in a tight race with Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell, had to wait until November 23 to get the final word that he was the victor.

Taking the long view, while there were several justices from Cincinnati appointed to the Supreme Court of Ohio in the early part of the 20th century, I think the first Cincinnati justice to be elected to the Ohio high court last century was my father-in-law, Gilbert Bettman, in 1940. That was one of the motivations for my own unsuccessful supreme court run in 1996. Other 20th century Cincinnatians later elected to the court were Charles Bell, James Garfield Stewart (father of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart), John Weld Peck, Louis Schneider, Jr., and Asher Sweeny, who was originally from Youngstown but made Cincinnati his home.  Sweeny was the most recent Cincinnatian elected to the high court, back in 1976. But when he left the court because of age limits in 1994, no Cincinnatian has been elected since, until DeWine and Fischer.  So it’s been awhile.  And with Justice Sharon Kennedy being from Butler County, the southern half of the state is now quite well represented on the court.

 

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