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Toledo attorney among Supreme Court applicants

COLUMBUS — A sitting judge, a Toledo attorney, and a Lorain school human-resources director have applied for the vacancy on the Ohio Supreme Court to be created later this month with the resignation of Justice William O’Neill.

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Ohio Supreme Court Justice William M. O'Neill listens during oral arguments at The Supreme Court of Ohio in Columbus.

Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch Enlarge

Justice O’Neill is set to end his tenure as the sole Democrat on the bench on Jan. 26 as he seeks his party’s gubernatorial nomination this year to succeed Republican John Kasich.

The odds-on favorite to win Mr. Kasich’s appointment is Judge Mary DeGenaro, of the Youngstown-based Seventh District Court of Appeals. She has already won the Ohio Republican Party’s endorsement for the O’Neill seat already on this year’s ballot.

That would mean a return to an all-Republican court, at least through most of this year, and would afford Judge DeGenaro the advantage of incumbency in the fall election. She’s also the only sitting judge in the mix.

Also submitting resumes were Richard Lee Johnson, an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation cases with the Toledo firm of Eastman & Smith, and Carol M. Gottschling, executive director of human resources for the Lorain schools.

Mr. Johnson obtained his bachelor’s degree in history, social studies, and religion/philosophy in 1980 from Indiana Wesleyan University and his law degree in 1994 from the University of Toledo. He said his interest in the appointment is not necessarily an indication that he plans a judicial campaign in the near future.

“I’m taking it one step at a time,” he said. “To me, putting my name into the ring for Governor Kasich to appoint seemed like a long shot, but I wanted to take the chance. It’s a long shot because I have no judicial experience…. I could be impartial in my decision-making, because I’ve been an attorney for quite a few years.”

It is not required that candidates for or appointed to the high court have judicial experience, but every current member of the bench did have that prior experience, including Mr. Kasich’s sole appointment to the bench five years ago.

Ms. Gottschling earned her law degree from Cleveland State University and passed the bar exam in 2003.

Democrats have yet to settle on their candidate for that seat or for that of Republican Justice Terrence O’Donnell, who, like Justice O’Neill, is barred from another term because of age. Republicans have gotten behind Judge Craig Baldwin, on the Canton-based Fifth District Court of Appeals, for the O’Donnell seat.

Judge DeGenaro received her law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and her undergraduate degree from Youngstown State University.

Mr. Kasich’s office said it will screen the applicants and interview the finalists.

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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