► Akron Beacon Journal – 05/15/01 – Chief Justice Moyer accused of breach Print E-mail

Akron Beacon Journal – 05/15/01 – Chief Justice Moyer accused of breach

Doug Oplinger
Beacon Journal Staff Writer
 
Toledo retiree files ethics grievance against Chief Justice Thomas Moyer for publicly voicing support for court colleague’s opponent
 
The high-stakes game of capturing control of the Ohio Supreme Court has landed Chief Justice Thomas Moyer in hot water.
 
Retired Toledo-area businessman David Palmer has filed an ethics grievance against Chief Justice Thomas Moyer for publicly supporting the opponent of Justice Alice Robie Resnick – a possible violation of the judicial canon, or code of ethics.
 
Palmer cited disclosures that at a recent Ohio Republican Party event, Chief Justice Thomas Moyer supported Republican Appellate Judge Terrence O’Donnell over Justice Alice Resnick in the November election.
 
Gwonger News Service, a daily record of Ohio government, said that Chief Justice Thomas Moyer spoke of Judge Terrence O’Donnell as a judge who knows the “limits” of the court in regards to the state legislature. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said without naming names that some of his colleagues on the Ohio Supreme Court have gone too far in overruling lawmakers.
 
Justice Alice Resnick, however, is the only one fitting the description who is up for election this year.
 
“What they are doing, in my view, is overruling the will of the people,” Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said. “I don’t think we have the authority to do that,” Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said.
 
While he [Chief Justice Thomas Moyer] wasn’t specific, there are two high-profile cases that have put the court at odds with the General Assembly and the governor. The ability of citizens to seek unlimited damages and the funding of public schools.
 
Replacing Justice Alice Resnick could tip the delicate 4-3 balance on both of those cases.
 
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said that based on Judge Terrence O’Donnell’s record as an appellate court judge, it is apparent that O’Donnell knows “how important that (hands-off) philosophy is,” Gwonger reported.
 
Judge Terrence O’Donnell has been endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party. Justice Alice Resnick, who has been a Ohio Supreme Court justice since 1988, is a Democrat.
 
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer has been chief justice since 1987. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said he is confident of the re-election of Republican Justice Deborah Cook, who is running against Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Tim Black.
 
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer differentiated between a public and private gathering.
 
Palmer said it makes no difference when it was said – a justice [Chief Justice Thomas Moyer] isn’t supposed to endorse a candidate at any time.”
 
“That’s akin to saying, “I wouldn’t have shoplifted if I knew there was a camera there,” Palmer said.
 
In his complaint, Palmer cited a judicial canon, prohibiting judges from making speeches “on behalf of a political organization or another candidate at a political meeting or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for another public office.”
 
Palmer, is a retired Toledo area restaurateur whose wife was permanently disabled in an accident in 1987. he now spends time at home with her and researching judges and lawyers.
 
Justice Alice Resnick told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week she was contemplating an action against Chief Justice Thomas Moyer herself.
 
Justice Alice Resnick was unavailable for comment yesterday.
 
Court procedure keeps all complaints confidential unless they are elevated to a disciplinary level.
 
When the complaints involve Supreme Court justices, the investigation is handled by the disciplinary council at the appellate court level.
 
Campaign contributions are expected to be a key to the November election.
 
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce ranks Justice Alice Resnick as the most anti-business high court justice.
 
The court now has five Republicans and two Democrats, but two of the Republicans – Andy Douglas and Paul Pheifer – joined Justice Alice Resnick and Justice Francis Sweeney on the two key court cases.
 
Last August the four overturned a state law limiting financial liability in lawsuits – known as tort reform.
 
The law capped awards for pain and suffering at $250,000 or three times the actual economic loss, up to $500,000. It also limited awards for permanent injuries to the greater of $1 millions or $35,000 for each year of the victim’s life expectancy.
 
It was the third time in 10 years that the court had overturned a similar law.
 
Justice Alice Resnick wrote the strongly worded majority opinion, chastising the legislature for trying to usurp the court’s constitutional powers.
 
Chief Justice Thomas Moyers, Justice Deborah Cook and Justice Evelyn Lundberg-Stratton were in the minority.
 
In the 1997 decision on the constitutionality of Ohio’s system of public schools, Cook, Stratton and Chief Justice Thomas Moyer were again in the minority, saying the court had no jurisdiction in what should be a legislative matter.
 
A second decision on school funding is expected sometime in the next several weeks.
 
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