Judges battle for seats on Ohio Supreme Court


COLUMBUS — Even if Democrats would win both of the contested seats for Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday, Republicans would still hold a 4-3 majority.

The state’s highest court, among other things, judges laws passed by the General Assembly and weighs capital cases.

Two Michigan Supreme Court seats are also on the ballot. Candidates in both states appear without party labels.

Ohio Republicans offer two 1st District Court of Appeals judges named Pat, both of whom hail from the same Cincinnati law firm — Judges Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine.

Democrats, meanwhile, counter with two northeast Ohio jurists — Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell and 11th District Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Rice.

Judges DeWine and Rice are vying to replace Justice Paul Pfeifer, who is barred from re-election because of his age. Judges O’Donnell and Fischer are competing to replace Justice Judith Lanzinger, of Toledo, who also faces mandatory retirement.

Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor faces no competition in her bid for re-election in a third seat.

Judge Rice, 58, has served on the Warren-based 11th District bench since 2003 and previously served as assistant U.S. attorney and assistant Trumbull County prosecutor. She earned her law degree from the University of Akron and holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University.

Judge DeWine, 48, son of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, is in his first term on the 1st District bench. He previously served as a Hamilton County Common Pleas judge, county commissioner, and Cincinnati councilman.

He earned his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1994 and received bachelor’s degrees from Miami University of Ohio in 1990.

Judge Fischer, 58, has served on the 1st District bench since 2010 as well as on the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission. He received his law degree and bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard College.

Judge O’Donnell, 51, served on the Cuyahoga bench from 2002 to 2005 and then returned in 2006. He received his law degree from Cleveland Marshall college of law and his bachelor’s degree from Miami of Ohio.

The Ohio State Bar Association rated Judges Fischer and Rice “highly recommended.” It rated Judge O’Donnell “recommended” and Judge DeWine “not recommended.”


In Michigan, GOP incumbent Justice David Viviano, 44, is defending his seat against Wayne County 3rd Circuit Judge Frank Szymanski, 63, a Democrat, and Highland attorney Doug Dern, 55, of the Natural Law Party.

GOP incumbent Justice Joan Larsen, 47, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year, asks voters to allow her to complete the last two years of that term. She faces Wayne County 3rd Circuit Judge Deborah Thomas, 63, a Democrat, and Redford attorney Kerry L. Morgan, 61, a Libertarian.

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