FORMER Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas describes his new job as executive director of the state's biggest public employees union as a new career.
To the extent he's not drawing his paycheck directly from the taxpayers any long<0x00AD>er, he's right.
To the extent he's toiling to advance the same interests that he argued for on the court, he's wrong.
Mr. Douglas left the state's highest court last year because he had reached mandatory retirement age and could not run again. By any measure, his 18 years on the court stamped him as something of an anomaly: a Republican with a strong philosophical identification with a constituency that traditionally defines the Democratic Party - organized labor.
So his so-called new career can be perceived as an extension of his old.
As our Columbus Bureau's extensive review of Mr. Douglas' years on the court made clear last Sunday, his employment by the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association is not only not a surprise but almost a natural progression.
As a justice Mr. Douglas took part in nine cases with written decisions that involved the union and its membership, which now stands at about 37,000. And in every instance but one, he sided with the union.
Over the years he was equally hospitable to Ohio's other giant public employee union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Nineteen decisions involving AFSCME came before him, and 15 times he supported the union position.
We don't doubt for a moment that he acted out of personal conviction in those cases, and we don't suggest that he ruled on the basis of some secretly harbored notion that one day he'd take a job with the OCSEA.
But it is impossible to ignore the idea that his new job is not just gainful employment for someone sympathetic to the cause but an act of gratitude for an old friend.
In that sense, his appointment is troub<0x00AD>ling. Quite simply, public employee unions exist to get the best possible deal for their members, and quite frequently that goal does not mesh with the best interests of the taxpayers and the public.
As a judge, Mr. Douglas was first and foremost a politician. Now that he's no longer on the court, he can wear his partisanship for narrow special interests on his sleeve, not under his judicial robes.
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