Yvette McGee Brown, the lone Democrat on the seven-member Ohio Supreme Court, defended her fellow justices against criticism from her challenger — a Republican nominee.
Sharon Kennedy, a Butler County Domestic Relations Court judge who ran unopposed in the March Republican primary to face Justice McGee Brown in the general election, told The Vindicator last week that the current court members go too far, at times, with some decisions.
In a Wednesday interview, Justice McGee Brown said: “Nothing could be further from the truth. This court does not rewrite or legislate from the bench. We’re very cognizant of what our role is and what constitutional democracy is. This is a court that does not make changes in the law. We interpret the law. If you look at our decisions, we’re always relying on precedent. We are not a court that says, ‘Oh, this is what the law should be.’”
Though all of her colleagues on the bench are Republicans, Justice McGee Brown complimented them. She specifically mentioned Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, who is retiring at the end of the year with two years left in her term. Justices McGee Brown and Stratton both served at the same time as judges on the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
“I can say to you that I’m proud to serve on the court,” Justice McGee Brown said. “I think this is a good court. It’s a court that follows the constitution and the laws of this state.”
Judge Kennedy said last week that “there have been cases that have come out that people question whether or not they’re creating new law.” She added that “the role of a judge simply is [to] uphold law and not rewrite or legislate from the bench,” but wouldn’t get into specifics because “these cases or these types of legal issues will return to the court again because I think [they’re] unsettled.”
Justice McGee Brown said, “We look at what the court precedent has been. If it’s a new law, we apply the meaning and the language on the statute to the case before us.”
Outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, appointed McGee Brown, his lieutenant governor running mate in 2010’s election defeat, in January 2011 to a seat on the court left vacant after O’Connor was elected chief justice.
“I have to admit to you, I think I like [being on the Supreme Court] a little better than I would have liked being lieutenant governor,” Justice McGee Brown said.
Izzy Santa, spokeswoman for the Ohio Republican Party, called Justice McGee Brown, a “crony” of Strickland’s who was appointed as a “reward” for her “loyal political support of his failed administration.”
Santa added that Judge Kennedy’s “judicial philosophy of restraint and opposition to legislating from the bench, stands in stark contrast to Brown’s record of left-wing judicial activism.”
Two other incumbents, Justices Robert R. Cupp and Terrence O’Donnell, who ran in the primary as Republicans, are seeking re-election. William O’Neill, a former judge on the 11th District Court of Appeals, will face Justice Cupp.
The Ohio Democratic Party selected state Sen. Michael Skindell on Tuesday to challenge Justice O’Donnell.