Candidates hope to fill vacancies on Ohio Supreme Court and Eleventh District Court of Appeals

Taylor Rosen and Jamie Dillon

Three seats on the Ohio Supreme Court and one seat on the Ohio District Court of Appeals will appear on the general election ballot today.

The Mar. 15 primary election revealed all five individuals running for these seats are previously elected officials.

One incumbent is seeking re-election, while the remaining four hope to earn their first opportunity to sit on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Incumbent Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has served on the Ohio Supreme Court since 2011. O’Connor is seeking re-election to the position of chief justice. She is running unopposed.

O’Connor was recently elected as the first vice president of the Conference of Chief Justices and is set to become president in 2017.

In 2010, O’Connor became the first woman in Ohio history to serve as the chief justice of the Supreme Court. She defeated Eric Brown in the general election by winning 67.8 percent of the vote.

The second of three vacant seats was previously occupied by incumbent Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, who reached the mandatory retirement age.

The two previously elected officials hoping to take her seat: Democrat Judge John O’Donnell and Republican Judge Pat Fischer.

O’Donnell has served as a judge for Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas since 2002.

He previously ran for a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court in 2014, but he was unsuccessful in challenging Justice Judith French for her seat.

O’Donnell, a former attorney, promises to base decisions on existing law and the Constitution if elected.

Fischer, his opponent, has served as a judge on Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals since being elected in 2010. He defeated Ohio First District Court of Appeals Judge Colleen O’Toole in the Republican primary Mar. 15.

The former private practice lawyer believes he has the ability and desire to make the judicial and legal system better than it is today.

The third vacant seat was formerly held by incumbent Justice Paul Pfeifer, who has been a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court for over 20 years.

Pfeifer, who reached the mandatory retirement age, was first elected to the court in 1992.

Democrat Judge Cynthia Rice and Republican Judge Pat DeWine are both seeking to replace Pfeifer.

Rice has served as a judge on Ohio’s Eleventh District Court of Appeals since 2003.

Rice was re-elected to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in 2014. Her current term will expire in 2021.

The former assistant U.S. attorney would like to utilize her experiences as a drug prosecutor to address the current problem with drug and heroin addiction in Ohio.

DeWine has served as a judge on Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals since 2013. He was formerly a judge on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.

DeWine is seeking a Supreme Court seat because he believes he can strengthen Ohio’s legal environment and improve the lives of citizens.

The Eleventh Ohio District Court of Appeals consists of five counties: Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage and Trumbull, and the seat on the court was previously occupied by Democrat Thomas R. Wright. 

Judge Wright was named the 2005-2006 Mahoning County Bar Association Lawyer of the Year for advancing the skills of the legal profession and performing outstanding legal work.   

Wright, who was initially elected to the court in 2010, is seeking re-election in 2016.

Wright believes the court system should do a better job of informing the public about the nature of the appellate court system in order to better serve the people.

Wright’s opponent, Republican Ron M. Tamburrino, ran for election to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in 2014, he received 44 percent of the vote and was defeated by Timothy Cannon.

If elected, Tamburrino promises to improve transparency to the public regarding all matters at the Eleventh District Court of Appeals.

Tamburrino is currently facing suspension of his law license for six months to a year, pending an Ohio Supreme Court decision on whether statements he made in 2014 political advertisements were false.

If Tamburrino were to win, he could be suspended just a few weeks after taking office in January, and his seat would be declared vacant.

Contact the city reporters at [email protected], [email protected]