Now that Richard Cordray has announced his candidacy for governor, it’s time for Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill to get back to doing the job that Ohioans elected him to do in 2012.
Since O’Neill announced he would run for governor next year, the Democrat has lacked the decorum normally associated with high court justices.
For one, O’Neill publicly announced that should he be elected governor, he would push for legalization of marijuana. While that’s a fair issue for a gubernatorial campaign, it’s a controversial one that very well could come before the court in one form or another.
But that wasn’t the most questionable of O’Neill’s actions. Last month, after Minnesota Sen. Al Franken was called out for a photograph showing him appearing to grope a sleeping woman, O’Neill took to Facebook and wrote about his own sexual conquests of women.
The comments were out of place, especially for someone serving on the Ohio Supreme Court.
The posting was widely criticized for being inappropriate for a sitting justice, let alone a possible candidate for governor. O’Neill has been called out for the Facebook post by Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, among others.
O’Connor, in a statement, condemned the post. “No words can convey my shock,” she said. “This gross disrespect for women shakes the public’s confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.”
State Auditor Dave Yost earlier called for O’Neill to resign from the court based on an Ohio law that requires a sitting judge “upon becoming a candidate” for a nonjudicial elective office to step down. The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct specifically forbids sitting judges from running for partisan political office.
While O’Neill has announced his intention to run, he claimed he wouldn’t actually become a candidate for office until February, when he files nominating petitions. He also has said judges, like everyone, have a constitutional right to free speech. Of course they do.
O’Neill knows judicial rules and the Constitution, but he should also understand the rules of decency that justices are expected to follow.
Just about anything goes these days in politics, but most people, we suspect, prefer the officers of the court to express their opinions in their decisions. O’Neill may not have broken laws, but his recent actions are still troubling.
Cordray did what many expected him to do Tuesday, when he announced his candidacy for governor. When asked, O’Neill said he’s staying in the race, but will announce a final decision Friday.
It shouldn’t take that long. It’s time for Justice O’Neill to do what he said he’d do if Cordray opted to run: Pull out. O’Neill would do better to focus on being a justice instead of lobbying for legal pot and bragging about his past sex life on social media — at least until he leaves the bench.
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