Opposing viewpoints on Ohio judicial selection: Should the system change?

In light of the recent elections in Ohio where only 70 out of 225 judicial races were contested, debate has resumed on a topic that frequently comes up post-election: How should Ohio select its judges? Cleveland.com has offered opposing viewpoints on this issue in the form of editorials from the community.

David Owsiany, President of the Ohio Dental Association argues that Ohio should continue its current scheme of electing judges, wherein judges are selected by voters in partisan primaries and then elected in nonpartisan general elections. Owsiany points to the will of the people of Ohio, citing times throughout the years when the state has considered changing the system of selecting judges to no avail. Owsiany criticizes a merit-selection form of selecting judges, claiming that politics still influences who is selected, and that decisions about judgeships are often made without public scrutiny. He concludes that because judges are frequently deciding significant issues related to Ohio law, that a large majority of Ohioans favor continuing to elect their judges under the current scheme.

Nancy Brown, President of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, advocates for a change in the process of selecting judges. Brown suggests an appointment-retention election system, wherein candidates would be appointed and then run in retention elections after a year or two in office so voters could decided whether or not they could remain in this role. Under this plan a nonpartisan commission would vet judicial candidates before appointment by the governor in a public process designed to determine whether the candidates are qualified for office. Before retention elections, a public body would conduct judicial performance reviews to inform the electorate about how the judge has performed his duties since appointment. Brown argues that this system would help give the public more of a voice in the process of electing judges because so many judicial races are currently unopposed and voters have no choice as to whether those judges will be reelected.