3 on Supreme Court face challengers

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page PT6

COLUMBUS — Three of the seven seats on the Ohio Supreme Court, including the position of chief justice, will be filled in Tuesday’s election.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, a Republican, faces 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Gary Tyack.

Mr. Tyack, a Democrat, has accused Mr. Moyer of being too cozy with big business and insurance companies, as well as encouraging feuding on the court, particularly with Justice Andy Douglas of Toledo.

Mr. Moyer defends his record as appropriately conservative, and said he avoids the judicial activism that has drawn some criticism of the court.

Justice Francis Sweeney, one of two Democrats on the court, is seeking re-election and arguing that he can best defend the rights of Ohioans. His opponent is 12th District Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Powell, who has stressed his conservative, pro-business judicial ideals in the race.

Also up for re-election is Justice Paul Pfeifer, a Republican who court observers considered a swing vote in the court’s controversial 1997 school-funding decision. Mr. Pfeifer faces opposition from Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald Suster, a Democrat who is a former state repre sentative.

This year’s races take an added importance because of the landmark opinion in DeRolph vs. Ohio, in which the court declared the way Ohio funds its schools unconstitutional and ordered the state to reform it – at a potential cost of billions of dollars.

The vote was 4-3 to overturn the system, and a change of just one justice could seriously affect what the court will do in 1999, when the case reaches it again on appeal. The court will then determine if the state has done enough to fix the system.

Mr. Sweeney wrote the majority opinion in the original DeRolph case, and Mr. Pfeifer joined him in the majority. Mr. Moyer wrote the dissenting opinion.