3 retain seats on Ohio Supreme Court

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus bureau

Page 9

COLUMBUS — For all the hubbub over the Ohio Supreme Coutr’s controversial school-funding decision last year, voters decided not to make any changes in the court yesterday.

All three incumbent justices easily won re-election, incluidng Chief Justice Thomas Moyer. With 93 per cent of precincts reporting, Mr. Moyer, a Republican, outpolled Democratic 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Court Judge Gary Tyack, 1,853,166 to 705,790 (72.4 per cent to 27.6 per cent).

Also victorious were incumbent justices Francis Sweeney and Paul Pfeifer. Mr. Sweeney and Paul Pfeifer. Mr. Sweeney, one of only two Democrats on the court, won a second term by beating 12th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Powell by a margin of 1,536,611 to 981,460 (61 per cent to 39 per cent).

Mr. Pfeifer, a Republican, won another term, scoring 1,811,114 votes and 71.8 per cent to Democrat Ron Suster’s 712,516 votes and 28.2 per cent.

Some observers expected this race to be a referendum on what may be most controversial decision the Ohio Supreme Court has made in recent decades: 1997’s DeRolph v. Ohio, in which the court declared the way Ohio funds its public schools unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to come up with a funding method that depends less on locally voted real estate taxes.

Many state leaders, particularly Republicans, criticized the court for acting as the General Assembly and considering something unconstitutional that may have been simply unwise.

Since the vote in DeRolph was 4-3, a one-person change in the court could have made a big difference when, early next year, the court considers DeRolph agian and rules on whether Ohio has done enough to reform its system.

Mr. Powell, Mr. Moyer, and Mr. Suster all campaigned heavily against judicial activism of the sort they say DeRolph symbolizes.

But voters evidently did not want to see much of a change. Mr. Moyer wrote the dissenting opinion and was re-elected too.

Mr. Pfeifer is generally considered the swing vote that clinched the 4-3 decision, and he won too.