The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) recently released its ratings for four judicial candidates seeking election to the Supreme Court of Ohio, deeming all four “Highly Recommended.”
The OSBA, which is comprised of 24 bipartisan members, ranks candidates based on six criteria: “Legal Knowledge and Ability,” “Professional Competence,” “Judicial Temperament,” “Integrity and Diligence,” “Personal Responsibility” and “Public and Community Service.” Candidates are rated between one and five in each category, and the maximum possible composite score is 30.
Scores of 25 or higher constitute a “Highly Recommended” rating by the OSBA. Judge Melody Stewart of the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals received the highest rating with a score of 29.
If elected, Stewart would become the first African-American woman ever elected to the state’s supreme court. She is an alumnus of the University of Cincinnati and holds a bachelor’s in music from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).
Incumbent Judge Mary DeGenaro received a score of 27. DeGenaro was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ohio by Governor John Kasich in January. She previously served 17 years at the Youngstown Court of Appeals.
Judge Michael Donnelly of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court was given a score of 26. Donnelly has been on the court since 2005 and ran unopposed during his re-election bids in 2010 and 2016.
Judge Craig Baldwin of the Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals received a score of 25. Baldwin was appointed to the court in 2013 after spending eight years on the bench in the Licking County Court of Common Pleas. He worked previously as director of the Licking County Child Support Enforcement Agency.
To determine each candidate’s score, OSBA members received a written questionnaire and resume, overviews of the candidates’ decisions, writings, publications, letters of reference, docket reports, financial disclosure statements and other public records. Each candidate was subsequently interviewed by the OSBA.
Two seats are up for grabs on Ohio’s all-Republican supreme court. Yet Martin Mohler, OSBA chairman, said voters are relatively uninformed about judicial candidates.
“When it comes to judicial elections, though judges make decisions that affect our everyday lives in countless ways, voters consistently report that they do not know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision,” Mohler said in a news release.
“I am pretty informed, yet I have voted for judges I did not know that much about,” said first-year political science student Abigail Gaba. “It is pretty unfortunate that [these] rankings are not publicized as much.”
To some UC students, judicial elections are considered less important than higher-profile senatorial races.
“I feel like myself, along with a lot of other people, wouldn’t care to read up on these rankings,” said Anusha Kalavacharla, a first-year medical sciences student. “People believe voting for a judge isn’t that important when compared to voting for someone like a senator.