Ohio’s Chief Justice Lobbying Against Criminal Justice Reform
Article from Reason by Eric Boehm.
Ohio lawmakers trying to pass sentencing reforms have faced opposition this year from the usual suspects, such as lobbyists for prosecutors and law enforcement. But they’ve also run into vocal criticism from an unexpected source: Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.
It is unusual—and it may damage the objectivity and independence of the court system—for sitting Supreme Court justices to lobby for or against legislation. But that hasn’t stopped O’Connor from jumping into the middle of the legislature’s deliberations over a pair of criminal justice reform proposals. In newspaper op-eds, public appearances, and letters to members of the state Senate, O’Connor, who happens to be a former prosecutor and lobbyist, has repeatedly argued against a bill that would downgrade some felony drug possession charges to misdemeanor offenses.
O’Connor, of course, has a First Amendment right to speak about legislation and to criticize the legislative process if she wants. But she seems to recognize the unusual nature of her advocacy.
“You may think it unprecedented to receive a letter from me, as Chief Justice, that addresses my concerns about [Senate Bill 3],” O’Connor wrote in a December 3 missive to state legislators, a copy of which was obtained by Reason. But, she adds, it is “my duty” to speak out about issues that “affect the administration of criminal justice and the operation of Ohio’s courts.”
Read the entire article at Reason.
Image Credit: By St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons