<font face="verdana" size="1" color =#CC0000><b>* New video * </b></font> Justice Resnick charged with DUI

2/2/2005
BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick refused to take a field sobriety test and drove away from police Monday afternoon when confronted with reports she had been driving erratically on I-75 near Bowling Green.

According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, a patrol car and local police caught up to her back on I-75, pulling her over near Cygnet, and arrested her for driving under the influence and driving outside marked lines.

Conviction on the misdemeanor DUI charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"You don't have a good reason to stop me," she protested when an officer approached her state-owned 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee and spoke to her over the barking of her small dog.

On an arrest video released yesterday by the patrol, she could be heard from inside her vehicle saying, "It's not right. I was not weaving anywhere. I really cannot tolerate this."

Justice Resnick, 65, of Ottawa Hills is the only Democrat remaining on the state's seven-member high court.


She did not return a call to her home yesterday, but her husband, former 6th District Court of Appeals Judge Melvin L. Resnick, who answered the phone, described her as "very, very upset."

"She isn't in the mood to talk to reporters today," he said. "She had recrimination problems last night. It's just a bad incident."

Mr. Resnick said he was not home Monday afternoon when his wife left for Columbus where she was scheduled to be on the bench to hear oral arguments.

"Somebody saw her weaving and reported it to police," he said.

The highway patrol reported receiving six cell phone calls from motorists alerting them to a vehicle weaving across lanes on I-75.

A taped copy of one 911 call received at the patrol's Waldridge post said the vehicle nearly sideswiped her.

"I've got what looks like a drunk driver on 75 south of Toledo," a trucker told troopers.


A Bowling Green officer and then a highway patrolman approached the vehicle after finding it stopped at a BP gas station at the Bowling Green exit of I-75. According to the patrol's report, they took her driver's license and registration, and she identified herself as a Supreme Court justice.

She denied having had any alcohol or taken any medication. In a separate police report, the Bowling Green officer said her movements seemed "very slow and delayed," although he said he detected no odor of alcohol.

She refused to take a vision test and drove off despite the officers' protests, according to police.

"I informed her that she was not free to go," Bowling Green Police Officer Mark Hanson wrote in his report of the incident. "She thanked us, rolled up her window, and drove off."

Much of what happened next was caught on a highway patrol video. As the patrol car followed, the gold Jeep could be seen weaving back and forth within the right lane and then briefly straddling both lanes. Police described earlier seeing her dart into the right lane between two tractor-trailers without a turn signal after she had apparently spotted the car behind her.

The patrol car activated its overhead lights and Justice Resnick pulled off the right side of I-75. After Trooper Vilay Sayarath and Office Hanson approached her car, Justice Resnick exited her car and slowly walked toward the officers.

She repeatedly asked them to return her license and registration so she could leave.

"This is terribly embarrassing. What are you going to do with me?" she asked the officers. "You are embarrassing me."

After the trooper told her she smelled of alcohol, Justice Res-nick told the officers: "I have not been drinking. You're really infringing on my [pause]. OK, I'm not going to argue."

At one point she handed the highway patrolman a cell phone with a man's voice later identified as that of her husband on the other end of the conversation.

"They later conducted a series of tests, an eye test and a portable breath test, which is not an evidentiary test," said Lt. Rick Zwayer, a patrol spokesman. None of that occurred on camera. She registered a .216 on the portable breath test administered in a patrol car along I-75, twice the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Later, at the Findlay Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, Justice Resnick refused to take an official evidentiary Breathalyzer test. A refusal automatically results in a one-year suspension of a driver's operating license.

She was arrested and charged with DUI. Her state vehicle was impounded and later returned to the Supreme Court, Lieutenant Zwayer said.

Justice Resnick's appearance on the charges in Bowling Green Municipal Court has been delayed from this morning until March 2.

Her Toledo attorney, Sheldon Wittenberg, declined to comment.

Ms. Resnick is the second woman elected to the Supreme Court bench. Her six-year term expires at the end of next year, and she has been reluctant so far to commit to seeking a fourth and final term.

Her staff notified Chief Justice Thomas Moyer on Monday night about her arrest and explained why she would be missing court arguments, court spokesman Chris Davey said.

At one point during her discussions with officers, Justice Resnick asked what they planned to do with her, whether she was headed to jail.

Then she added, "I've always said a Supreme Court justice should have a highway patrolman driving them."

A conviction on misdemeanor charges would not trigger automatic disciplinary action before the court. That would require a felony conviction.

But self-appointed court watchdog David Palmer, who has filed numerous complaints over the years related to the court's use of state vehicles, tried to force the issue by faxing a complaint to the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.

On the high court, Justice Resnick has ruled in a number of cases involving drunken-driving issues.

In a 1999 ruling involving a Lucas County case, she voted with a 4-3 majority to uphold the constitutionality of pulling a suspected drunken driver over based on solely on information supplied by a cell-phone caller.

In 2000, she was again part of a 4-3 majority in an Erie County case that warned police to strictly adhere to DUI field sobriety procedures or risk having convictions overturned.

William Meeks, a Columbus criminal-defense attorney who is not involved in this case, said he routinely warns clients not to take Breathalyzer tests after being pulled over for suspected drunken driver. He said the tests can be inaccurate, and that the courts, including the Ohio Supreme Court, have restricted the ability of the defense to successfully challenge them.

"Anybody who is in the system is going to be aware in this day and age of the one-sided approach favoring breath machines," he said. "The prosecutions are very one-sided. If I can't cross-examine my accuser, which in drunk driving cases is the machine, then I have been denied my right of confrontation."

In 1972, Ms. Resnick, then an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, pleaded no contest in Maumee Municipal Court to a charge of failing to stop for an accident and reckless driving.

Her vehicle had reportedly skidded 412 feet on Salisbury Road, knocking over shrubs and a flagpole, and striking a home. She was found guilty, fined $35, and her license was suspended for 30 days.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com,

or 614-221-0496.