MANSFIELD – Two Cincinnati-based candidates running for seats on the Ohio Supreme Court told Richland County Republican Party members Monday they would uphold the constitution as the founders envisioned it and would not write new law from the bench.
Both won endorsements from local Republican party members before the end of the party’s monthly luncheon at Ed Pickens’ Cafe on Main.
“My opponent says she believes in a ‘living’ constitution,” said Appellate Court Judge Pat DeWine, who faces Cynthia Rice on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Either DeWine or Rice will will replace Justice Paul Pfeifer, a Republican from Bucyrus who has served on the court since 1992, but must retire in 2016, having reached mandatory retirement age.
Pat DeWine, the son of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said he believes it’s up to judges to follow the Constitution, and up to “the people…not the judges” to make any amendments to that. “We have too many justices in this country that believe their role is to make the law,” he said.
DeWine previously served as a Cincinnati city council member and Hamilton County commissioner, and was a former trial judge who currently sits on the First District Court of Appeals.
He told party members one of his major concerns during his career has been the high cost of lawsuits. Too often, people are stuck in court, their lives put on hold by lawsuits that are unwarranted but drag on and on. “Getting rid of frivolous litigation has been one of my priorities,” he said.
Local Republicans also heard from Pat Fischer, who is facing off against Democrat John P. O’Donnell, for the seat now held by Justice Judith Lanzinger, a Republican.
Fischer, a former president of the Ohio State Bar Association, was appointed by the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer to co-chair a task force to make the judicial system more efficient, and was named one of the Top Lawyers in Ohio. He has served on the First District Court of Appeals since 2010.
He told Republicans he worked hard late into Democrat John Kerry’s presidential campaign, litigating efforts by Democrats to block Republican observers from Ohio voting precincts. Last-minute legal arguments had proceeded through three courts, when the U.S. Supreme Court voting shortly before polls opened, with an opinion that “went my way,” staying the ban, he said.
“I too am a strict constructionist, to the point that my law clerks get mad at me,” Fischer said. He said he believes judges should interpret what has been written, not legislate from the bench. In making a ruling, “we literally will diagram a sentence, see that the sentence really means – and that’s it,” he said. “What I personally believe doesn’t matter. There are many laws I don’t agree with.”
Fischer said some have called him a “boring” candidate – and that’s “a good thing.” When asked whether there is anything embarrassing in his past, “My answer is ‘no.’ he said “I have one wife, one daughter, one dog, and I’m loyal to all three. My wife and daughter are loyal to me, and if I keep feeding that dog, it’ll be loyal, too.”
Remarks during the luncheon frequently were on the light side. DeWine ended his talk saying as the father of five teenagers, he “has lots of experience adjudicating disputes.”
“I’m the mother of two teenagers – so God bless you,” Richland County Republican Party chairwoman and county commissioner Marilyn John responded.
John reminded party members that judicial candidates’ political affiliations won’t directly be listed on the Nov. 8 ballot, so it was important for staunch Republicans to remember the candidates’ names “and educate others around us” on down-ticket choices below those for president.