Ohio Supreme Court Nominee Appeals Judge Governor DeWine’s Son Talks Integrity

The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ stories, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets because it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

The makeup of Ohio’s next Supreme Court is arguably the most significant makeup the state’s highest court has faced in decades.

The court has been controlled by Republicans since 1986, but that could change in November. Three places are open. These races are critical but often under-researched by voters.

The Ohio Debate Commission announced on Monday that there would be no more court hearings. The commission said chief justice nominees Sharon Kennedy and Jennifer Brunner had stopped negotiating.

The next Ohio Supreme Court (OSC) will decide abortion, environmental, and LGBTQ+ rights laws. Voters on each side said it was the most important judicial line-up in decades.

RELATED: Why You Should Care About Ohio Supreme Court Races

OCJ/WEWS is hosting a series on CSO candidates. This is the second edition, which focuses on one of the two posts of justice.

RELATED: Candidates for Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Have Starkly Different Backgrounds, Ideologies and Priorities


Judges are supposed to be elected as nonpartisan candidates, but for the first time, candidates’ partisan affiliations will be listed on the ballot. For clarity, OCJ/WEWS uses alphabetical order when sharing candidate responses to questions.

Republican Justice Pat DeWine joined the Supreme Court in 2017 and is now running for his current seat. He had served as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the First District and the Court of Common Pleas for Hamilton County. He is the eldest son of Governor Mike DeWine. He also finds time to be an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati Law School. Prior to joining the bench, he practiced corporate law for over a decade.

Democratic Judge Marilyn Zayas has served on the First District Court of Appeals since 2016. She is a frequent guest judge on all the different courts, such as the OSC and many other appellate courts. She sits on the OSC’s Ethics, Professionalism and Diversity Committee and the Character and Fitness Board of Directors. She has nearly 20 years of experience in private law.

Judicial philosophy

DeWine is a strong proponent of judicial restraint, which generally refers to upholding precedent and respecting textualism. Textualism is a theory of looking at the ordinary language of legal text instead of trying to find the intent of why the bill was proposed, according to Congress.

“I’m someone who believes the role of judges is to apply the laws as they are written,” DeWine said. “I don’t think judges should legislate from the bench or impose their own personal opinions.”

Zayas’ philosophy grew out of her difficult upbringing, which made her want to give everyone a fair chance at justice, she said.

“I want everyone who comes to every court in all 88 counties not to believe, but to know that they have a fair chance to be heard,” Zayas said. “And how you do that by faithfully applying the law and the Constitution equally to everyone, regardless of any influence outside of politics.”

Judicial philosophy — background

DeWine recently came under fire for telling a political action group in a campaign investigation that abortion is not a constitutional right, which has Democrats and nonpartisan legal experts alleging that he violated Ohio’s code of judicial ethics. Giving a partisan opinion on a subject that he will have to decide has led lawyers to call it a campaign promise and a prejudice of a case.

The investigation into comments made about abortion by the three GOP justices did not occur until after interviews with the OSC were completed.

RELATED: 3 Ohio court contenders charged with violating ethics code, tell PAC that abortion is not a constitutional right

DeWine’s relationship with his father also became a point of contention during the redistricting case. Although the majority of the court assessed whether the elder DeWine would be held in contempt for failing to follow the court’s instructions for the constitutional maps, the judge did not recuse himself from the case. The judge has previously argued that he is able to review cases fairly and without bias.

Redistricting and what they would have changed or hoped would be different

DeWine didn’t answer that question, but instead explained that he couldn’t speak to upcoming cases.

“It’s a case that’s still pending, so we’re really not allowed to comment on that,” he said. “We are not authorized to comment on cases pending before our court or any other court.”

Knowing the case will soon be heard, Zayas acknowledged she couldn’t speak to it, but added that respect for the Ohio Supreme Court must be in place and judicial ethics must be followed.

“It’s really important to honor the integrity of the court and to honor the decisions that have been made,” she said.

A case or project in their career that they are proud of

DeWine was part of the 4-3 minority opinion in a case involving cash bail and bail system reform. The majority upheld a lower court ruling that a defendant’s bail had been set at an unconstitutional level. Then came the debate about considering public safety when bailing alleged “violent criminals.”

“I believe that partly because of this dissent and indeed many fallout from the majority decision, the state legislature found it necessary to put a constitutional amendment, number 1, on the ballot,” did he declare.

Learn more about bail reform in Ohio by clicking or tapping here.

Zayas is proud of her work to make the justice system fairer. A teenage mother of three had tested positive for marijuana, leading her to undergo a random drug test. She passed all the tests, but when it was time for her to testify, she couldn’t be taken to court. The judge continued his trial without his testimony. When she objected to this and ended up in court at a later date, they still wouldn’t let her speak, Zayas said.

“We are not only talking about the right to be a parent, but also about the right of children to be raised by their parents,” she said.These are issues that really come down to constitutional rights and individual rights.

The Constitution as a Living Document

DeWine does not buy into the idea that the Constitution is a living document, he said.

“I think, basically, when you say that, what you’re doing is allowing any judge to impose their view of what the Constitution should be,” he said. declared. “As far as the Ohio Constitution is concerned, it’s actually much easier to amend. So I think that’s the process that people who want to change the Constitution should go through, not ask judges to rewrite the Constitution.

It’s a loaded question because it was politically created, Zayas replied. There is actually a cover letter that accompanies the Constitution, but it is not published much anymore, she said.

“The cover letter makes it very clear that the Constitution is a concession document,” she added. “If you read it, what it essentially says is that it is in some ways an imperfect document, except for the ideals that are espoused in the Constitution.”

Why voters should choose them

Ohio needs to be a place where the rule of law is protected and where people feel safe, DeWine said. Ensuring the law is stable and predictable helps the economy grow, he added. He also believes that judges should apply the law as written.

“My philosophy brings this fairness and equality before the law because we treat everyone the same,” he said. “If we have a stable and predictable legal environment, it makes it easier for people to invest in state jobs and do things to make Ohio a better place to live and raise a family.”

If the state wants a fair, focused and dedicated candidate, it should choose Zayas, she said. She is running what she calls a one-term campaign, which means re-election will play no part in her behavior on the pitch. She will simply fight for what is right and what the Constitution stands for, not outside of political benefits or monetary gain.

“The one thing I will calculate is to serve the community at a particularly important time when we are losing faith in our justice system and we have very important issues in our community that we need to address,” she said. declared. “One thing that I find very important is our constitutional rights and our individual rights,” she said.

The winner of the 2020 presidential election

Although Judge Brunner and Kennedy had different answers, both DeWine and Zayas agreed that Joe Biden is the president and has won the election.

Want to know the latest news on the position of the candidates? OCJ/WEWS is here to help. We’ve created a guide to the 2022 Midterm Elections, which is updated daily with changing candidacies.

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