Ohio Supreme Court Justices Sharon Kennedy and Judith French have a combined three years on the bench of the high court. But both have proven they are well qualified and should be retained for full terms in November.
Kennedy was elected in 2012 to serve the remainder of an unexpired term. She is running against state Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren, who will leave office in December due to term limits.
Meanwhile, French, who joined the Supreme Court in 2013 as an appointee of Gov. John Kasich, is being challenged by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell, a Democrat.
Kennedy served as a judge in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas since 1999, and was administrative judge of that court’s domestic relations division from 2005 to 2012. A former Hamilton police officer, she also has done defense work.
Since joining the high court, she has announced plans to establish a pilot project with juvenile court judges to divert young offenders from jail.
We like that Kennedy, while part of the court’s 6-1 Republican majority, will stand her ground when necessary. She did that in an open records case earlier this year where the majority denied attorney fees to a Cleveland woman who went to court to obtain public records.
In the dissent, Kennedy said the other justices distorted the meaning of the statute, which describes situations in which a court must award fees and others in which the awarding of fees is optional.
Letson is an attorney and four-term lawmaker, but lacks the judicial experience needed to join the court. It’s worth noting that he has been rated “not recommended” by the Ohio State Bar Association.
The other race pits two candidates who have earned “highly recommended” marks from the bar.
Before being named to the court, French spent eight years on the 10th District Court of Appeals, writing hundreds of opinions, a task which prepared her well for her current job.
She served as chief legal counsel to Gov. Bob Taft (2002-2004) and was an assistant attorney general and chief counsel under Attorney General Betty Montgomery (1997-2002). She also served as deputy director for legal affairs of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
We like that French has made the effort to reach out to the public since being in office. She has spoken to students, civic organizations, and other groups throughout the state about the court and its functions.
O’Donnell is a worthy opponent, having served as a Cuyahoga County judge for 10 years and working as a trial attorney from 1999 to 2002. As a judge in one of the state’s busiest courts, he has handled criminal and civil cases and is an experienced trial judge.
He, too, would make a good justice, but we prefer French for the job because of her more varied work experience.
With Ohio split nearly 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, it would be better to have a more diverse court. But experience must still trump politics when it comes to picking our justices.