Monday, November 19, 2001

Ohio justice says talks didn't taint school case

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer admits talking with parties involved in the state's landmark school-funding case, but says his conversations did not violate judicial ethics rules because he was urging them to settle the case.

        “I don't think that's inappropriate,” Justice Pfeifer told the Columbus Dispatch for a story Sunday. “That's what judges do every day, and appellate judges should be no different. I've never indicated how I was going to vote, just that it looked to me that the case was at a point where settlement” might benefit both sides.

        Justice Pfeifer said he spoke with House Speaker Larry Householder, and representatives of Gov. Bob Taft and the Ohio Coalition of Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, the group pursuing the now 10-year-old case.

        He said he wasn't the only justice interested in pushing for a settlement, but he couldn't say who other justices may have contacted.

        Justices made dozens of calls to lobbyists and lawmakers connected to the lawsuit this year while the case was pending before the court, according to phone records analyzed by the newspaper.

        The coalition is suing the state over what it calls an unfair funding system. The case has been before the justices for most of the past five years, with a number of bitterly split 4-3 rulings.

        The court ruled in September that Ohio must change its school funding system. The court agreed to reconsider the ruling this month because the estimated cost for the changes was about $1.2 billion. They ordered mediation on Friday.


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