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Published: Wednesday, 1/21/2009

Ohio justices switch stance on political IDs for judges


COLUMBUS - Reversing itself, the Ohio Supreme Court has reimposed a prohibition on judicial candidates identifying themselves by political party in their campaign ads.

The court had voted just last month to lift the ban, a nod to the fact that judicial candidates already run in partisan primary elections and are often mentioned in party literature and slate cards.

But last week, the court voted 5-2 to reinstate the ban before the revised rules take effect on March 1. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said the justices aimed to emphasize the nonpartisan nature of judicial elections in Ohio. Judicial candidates appear without party affiliation on the general election ballot.

In 2004, a federal judge stepped in to prevent the state from enforcing the prohibition against then state appeals Judge William O'Neill, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court. That decision was reversed on appeal.

Chief Justice Moyer was joined by Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Maureen O'Connor, Terrence O'Donnell, and Robert Cupp. Justices Judith Lanzinger and Paul Pfeifer disagreed, citing a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Minnesota law restricting what judicial candidates could say on the campaign stump.

The majority, however, said that decision was narrowly tailored to a provision of the Minnesota law.

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