Friday, Sep 21, 2018
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State Supreme Court candidate Baldwin an 'originalist'

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COLUMBUS — Judge Craig R. Baldwin considers himself to be an “originalist” and “textualist” in the mold of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Both are about reading the Constitution and giving the words of the Constitution the meaning they had at the time they were written and using those words as an anchor for the disputes we have now,” said the Republican candidate for Ohio Supreme Court justice.

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Judge Craig Baldwin speaks to the crowd during an event at The Toledo Club September 6. Baldwin is running for a spot on the Ohio Supreme Court.

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“The beauty of this is, I think, that we don’t talk about the ‘living constitution’,” he said. “That’s always a moving target…At least this gives us some stability, some anchor, and we can move from there. The legislature can still legislate, and amendments can still be made.”

He considers the DeRolph decision in which the court he hopes to join struck down the state’s method of funding schools as unconstitutional, to be an example of “judicial activism” in which judges legislate from the bench.

Another case he cited became the poster child for judicial activism in Republican campaigns for the Supreme Court a decade ago, a case since reversed by a remade court. That decision allowed workers to file claims under their employers’ policies for under-insured motorist coverage even when the worker wasn’t driving a company vehicle or on company time at the time of the accident.

Fifth District Court of Appeals Judge Baldwin, 54, of Newark, Ohio is seeking a seat on the Supreme Court bench on Nov. 6, facing off with Democratic Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Donnelly. The seat will be vacated by Justice Terrence O’Donnell, who is barred from running again because of his age.

Both candidates have been “highly recommended” by the Ohio State Bar Association.

Judge Baldwin spent six years as domestic relations judge on Licking County Common Pleas Court before joining the appellate court in 2013 with jurisdiction over a 15-county, largely rural area in east-central Ohio.

“I think my width and breadth of experience is better (than Judge Donnelly’s), starting with the fact that I went to law school at night at Capital (University) and worked during the day in the Franklin County Municipal Clerk’s office in the filing room..,” he said.

He also argues that his tenure on the domestic relations bench and prior to that as director of the Licking County Child Support Agency, gave him an appreciation of the necessity to run an efficient courtroom.

While he has heard post-conviction appeals of capital cases on the Fifth District, he has never imposed a death sentence. While a domestic relations judge, he was certified to serve on a three-judge panel that considers such cases in lieu of jury trials, but he was never called upon to serve.

Although he has some concerns that the death penalty in Ohio has been unevenly applied across the state, he said he would vote to set execution dates as a justice. That became an issue in recent years as recently retired Justice William O’Neill voted against setting dates because he considered Ohio’s death penalty to be unconstitutional.

“I’ll follow the law,” Judge Baldwin said. “This goes back to deferring to the legislature. Unless for some reason I see it as unconstitutional, I’m going to follow the law in all of these cases.”

He dismisses the suggestion that Ohio is poorly served by a court entirely composed of a single political party, in this case Republicans.

“There shouldn’t be a Democrat or Republican way of judging,” Judge Baldwin said. “We take an oath, read the law, read the constitution, and make our decisions based on that…I do think there should be diversity in background and from a legal expertise standpoint.”

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

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