A justice blows it


ONE look at the highway patrol video of Alice Robie Resnick's apprehension on a drunken driving charge is enough to cast doubt on the Ohio Supreme Court justice's protestation that she wasn't under the influence when her Jeep Grand Cherokee was stopped Monday afternoon on I-75 south of Bowling Green.

Failing a field sobriety test and blowing a 0.216 reading on a portable alcohol detector didn't help her case in the court of public opinion, either. The result isn't admissible in Ohio courts but it would be in several other states.

In any event, whatever is finally determined in Bowling Green Municipal Court will do little to mitigate the tarnishing effect of this sad incident on the justice's long and distinguished legal career.

Over more than 30 years, Justice Resnick has served as an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, and as a judge of Toledo Municipal Court and the Sixth District Court of Appeals. When she was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1988, she was only the third woman in Ohio history to have ascended to the pinnacle of the state judiciary. Her accomplishments and efforts to help others of her gender put her in the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame.

As to her future on the Supreme Court, a drunken driving arrest isn't enough to automatically trigger disciplinary action within the legal community, although that may happen later. But Justice Resnick will want to think long and hard about running for re-election in 2006.

In the 2000 election, she survived a particularly vicious smear campaign by business interests using attack ads claiming that justice was "for sale" on the court. Imagine the sort of ads an opponent might conjure up with the video of her arguing with highway patrol troopers along I-75.

The three-term justice didn't further her cause when, after being approached and questioned by a city police officer and a highway patrol trooper at a Bowling Green gas station, she simply rolled up her window and drove away. The patrol followed and stopped her along I-75 north of Cygnet, where a trooper's dashboard video camera captured her unsteady walk and protests that she hadn't been drinking.

Justice Resnick has now apologized, saying she takes "full responsibility" for this sorry episode, and even conceded that she once had a drinking problem but has been sober for 22 years.

But that's a telling characteristic of alcohol addiction. The addict is often the last to admit the problem continues, and the mea culpa often comes only after some catastrophic accident. In this case, thankfully, the only injury was to Justice Resnick's reputation.

Her behavior is a disgrace to the judiciary, whose members sit in judgment of their fellow citizens and thus are expected to scrupulously obey the law or even be held to a higher standard of conduct. It's also a sad and unfortunate black mark on the career of a woman who has been one of the Toledo area's leading public servants.