Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Justice steps off ECOT case at late stage


COLUMBUS — An Ohio Supreme Court justice who listened during oral arguments in February as the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow fought the state’s attempts to recover about $80 million in past aid suddenly removed himself from the case on Monday.

Such a move typically occurs before the justice presides over arguments with the rest of the bench.

Justice Pat DeWine, a first-term Republican justice and the son of attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine, usually takes the position that he does not have to recuse himself from cases involving his father’s office unless his father actually argues the case.

The elder DeWine did not argue this case, but, without comment, his son submitted his notice of recusal on Monday.

A spokesman for the court declined to comment on how such recusals are handled once arguments have already been made and the case has been submitted to the court for a final decision.

ECOT, once the state’s largest online charter school, shut down in January at the halfway mark of the year, leaving some 12,000 students scrambling to find other options. The school’s Toledo sponsor, the Educational Services Center of Lake Erie West, cut it off after the state’s claw back of past subsidies left the school financially insolvent.

The state determined that ECOT could not provide that students were logged into its system enough to qualify as full-time students.

The attorney general’s office is representing the Department of Education in the case, and more recently the office has become increasingly involved in other ECOT litigation as it seeks to go after the school’s founder, William Lager, to recover what it says is owed to the state.

Justice DeWine’s recusal joins that of fellow Justice Judith French, which was submitted well before the case reached the oral argument stage so that a temporary replacement, First District Court of Appeals Judge W. Scott Gwin, could be appointed to sit in for her during arguments.

Justice French’s husband is a magistrate in Franklin County Common Pleas Court where the case began.

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