Have you ever stared down at a ballot, seen a long list of candidates for judge, and wondered “Who are these people?” As early voting in Ohio begins on October 12, you might be wondering whether you know enough to cast your vote when it comes to the judicial races. The City Club of Cleveland, along with four local bar associations, is committed to helping voters make informed choices when they vote for judges this fall.
This year, there are contested races for the Ohio Supreme Court and the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas (both General Division and Domestic Relations Division). The City Club will host a candidate forum on October 19 with Ohio Supreme Court democratic candidates Judge John O'Donnell and Judge Cynthia Rice; the other candidates in this race declined to participate.
For voters who want to learn about the judicial candidates from the comfort of home, there is another option. Judge4Yourself.com is a service of a non-partisan coalition of four local bar associations that evaluate and rate the candidates for judge in Cuyahoga County and the Ohio Supreme Court. It stems from the efforts of dozens of lawyers, and several non-lawyers, representing the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, the Ohio Women’s Bar Association, the Norman S. Minor Bar Association, and the Cuyahoga County Defense Lawyers Bar Association. Judge4Yourself is designed to help voters make educated choices when voting for judges.
The ratings process begins with the coalition reviewing each judicial candidate’s professional experience and writing samples, and interviewing lawyers who have dealt with the candidates professionally. The coalition also obtains information about any ethics complaints that have been made about the candidates. Every judicial candidate is then invited to appear for an in-person interview before a diverse group of lawyers and non-lawyers from the community. After the interviews, each member organization of the coalition evaluates the candidates based on their integrity, knowledge, experience, diligence, community understanding, and their ability to be impartial and even-tempered. Finally, those evaluations are translated into ratings of “Excellent”, “Good”, “Adequate,” or “Not Recommended” and then published on Judge4Yourself.com.
You can print out the ratings and take them with you to the polls.
Thomas Jefferson famously observed that “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” That is never truer than when it comes to our judges. I encourage you to go to the website and learn about your choices for judge before you vote.