In this report, Common Cause Ohio has outlined the scope of the problem and recommended specific, practical and actionable steps to remedy the problem.
Millions of dollars have poured into campaigns for Ohio’s highest court. This includes money raised directly by candidates for justice and money spent on political advertisements by groups not directly affiliated with the candidates. Often, the source of this outside money is unknown, or “dark money.” Once elected, judges in Ohio can and do hear the cases of their campaign contributors. This creates — at the very least — an unseemly appearance of bias. It’s not surprising that such a system tests public confidence in the courts.
To make sure that money is not influencing the outcomes of judicial decisions, and to restore public confidence in our courts, Ohio should adopt commonsense recusal rules similar to those recommended by the American Bar Association (ABA). Indeed, Ohio can look to nearby states both for cautionary tales of what can go wrong when money weighs in from behind the bench and for ideas about workable recusal standards and procedures. Passing recusal reform for Ohio should be a top priority for fair courts advocates across the political spectrum.