Kasich names Judith French to fill Ohio Supreme Court seat


COLUMBUS — A second “Judge Judy” is headed to the Ohio Supreme Court bench.

Gov. John Kasich today named Judith L. French, a judge on the 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus, to fill the vacancy to be created at the end of the year by the mid-term resignation of veteran Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton.

The high court already has one “Judge Judy” in Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, a Toledo Republican serving her second and final term.

Thirteen judges and attorneys had submitted resumes to the Republican governor, but one name that would have been considered a front-runner was missing. Current Justice Robert Cupp, a Lima Republican, lost his bid for re-election on Nov. 6, and then took his name out of contention for appointment to the Stratton vacancy.

At the start of the year, the seven-justice Supreme Court will count three new members. It will remain a 6-1 Republican-majority and 4-3 female-majority bench.

Judge French had been considered a potential contender to take on Democratic Justice Yvette McGee Brown, also of Columbus, this year, but the Ohio Republican Party ultimately went with Butler County Domestic Relations Judge Sharon Kennedy from GOP-rich southwest Ohio. The little-known Judge Kennedy surprised many by handily defeating Justice Brown, the court’s sole Democrat and the court’s first African-American woman.

Judge French is perhaps best known as the former assistant attorney general selected to argue Ohio’s landmark school-choice case in 2002, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld as constitutional the use taxpayer dollars to fund tuition grants for parents to send their children to private and religious schools.

The case revolved around the state’s first foray into school vouchers in Cleveland, but such tuition grants have since expanded statewide. Mr. Kasich supports even further expansion.

Judge French will serve the two years left in Justice Stratton’s term and will be eligible to run for a six-year term of her own in 2014.

In addition to Justices French and Kennedy, William M. O’Neill, a Democratic former appellate judge from Geauga County who defeated Justice Cupp, will join the court at the start of the year. He will take an early oath in a Cleveland ceremony next week.

Since Justice Brown had been appointed to a partial term, Justice Kennedy was officially sworn in on Dec. 7 after the final vote was certified.

Others who submitted resumes were Patrick Francis Fisher, Cincinnati-based appellate judge and Ohio State Bar Association president; Pat DeWine, newly elected Cincinnati-based appellate judge; Craig R. Baldwin, Licking County Common Pleas judge; Joyce A. Campbell, Fairfield Municipal judge; Thomas W. Coffey, senior counsel with Cleveland law firm; Douglas R. Cole, former state solicitor; Mary E. Donovan, Dayton-based appellate judge; Victor Haddad, Clermont County Common Pleas judge; Matthew W. McFarland, southern Ohio appellate judge; and Charles M. Miller, Cincinnati law firm partner.

Judge French has served on the 10th District bench since 2004.