Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Cuyahoga judge gets seat on top court

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft on Monday gave Terrence O'Donnell something that voters would not - a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court. Taft appointed O'Donnell, 57, to replace Justice Deborah Cook, who will soon leave the state's highest court to join the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Judge Terrence O'Donnell addresses the media after Gov. Bob Taft announced his appointment to the Ohio Supreme Court.
(Associated Press photo)
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The former Cuyahoga County appeals court judge, a Republican, lost a nasty 2000 campaign race to Justice Alice Robie Resnick.

The contest drew national attention for the vicious television ads sponsored by business interests that portrayed Resnick as a corrupt judge. The media blitz backfired, and Resnick easily won re-election.

Flanked by his family and the governor in Taft's Statehouse cabinet room, O'Donnell on Monday condemned those ads. He vowed to discourage third-party groups from mounting any similar efforts when he runs for the remainder of Cook's term in 2004.

"I will not permit anyone to hijack a race I'm involved in," O'Donnell said, adding, "I'm already campaigning for the Ohio Supreme Court."

O'Donnell will spend the next 18 months as a justice. He will appear as an incumbent on the 2004 primary and general election ballots when he runs for the two remaining years of Cook's term.

He also will join a 2004 ticket loaded down with Supreme Court campaigns. Justice Francis E. Sweeney will retire. Justice Paul E. Pfeifer is expected to seek re-election, as is Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer.

Position: Ohio State Supreme Court justice
Age; birth date - 57; Feb. 11, 1946.
Education - Bachelor's degree in political science, Kent State University, 1968; law degree, Cleveland State University, 1971.
Experience - Former school teacher; law clerk for the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals; private practice with Marshman, Snyder and Corrigan in Cleveland; Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge, 1980-1994; 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals judge, 1995-February; visiting judge in several Ohio counties.
Family - Wife, Mary Beth; four grown children.
The governor picked him from a list of nine interviewed candidates, who included Middletown appeals Judge Stephen Powell and Cincinnati appeals Judge Mark Painter.

Taft said he was looking for a judge who is impartial, with extensive judicial experience, and whose integrity "was beyond reproach."

"We found every one of these invaluable and indispensable assets in Judge Terry O'Donnell," Taft said.

Ohio Democratic Party chairman Denny White said O'Donnell will face skeptical voters who remember the commercials from his last Supreme Court bid.

"It was probably one of the dirtiest judicial campaigns in the state," said White. "It's not what Ohioans want on the court."

O'Donnell said he hopes voters will judge him based on his decisions and on his own words, and disregard the voices of outside groups he cannot control.

Over the next 18 months, he vowed to handle each case "on its own merits, without any preconceived ideas on outcome." He also offered an olive branch to his old foe, Resnick.

"I'm confident we'll be able to work together on the court, and that she and I will have a good working and collegial relationship," O'Donnell said.

Resnick declined to comment. During the 2000 campaign, however, she accused business interests that supported O'Donnell of trying to take over the court.

An Ohio Chamber of Commerce-backed group called Citizens for a Strong Ohio spent about $3 million on television ads that attacked Resnick and supported O'Donnell.

The most controversial spot featured a statue of Lady Justice. It showed special interest money tipping Lady Justice's scales while a narrator said Resnick's opinions were for sale.

Resnick won re-election with 57 percent of the votes cast.

Cook is officially leaving the Supreme Court on Friday. She was confirmed to the federal bench by the U.S. Senate last week. Her nomination to the appeals court languished for over two years.

O'Donnell's swearing-in ceremony is tentatively set for Monday.

E-mail shunt@enquirer.com

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