Justice Kennedy: Know Your Judicial Candidates

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy urged voters to research judicial candidates before they cast their vote.

Kennedy spoke Thursday during a meeting of We the People Ohio Valley, an organization formed to support the Constitution, at the community room of the Ohio Valley Mall. More than 30 people from the Ohio Valley including Belmont Jefferson and Monroe Counties and Wheeling attended.

Kennedy will be up for election November of 2020 and added that though she is a Republican and endorsed by the Republican Party, her duty is to the law and the Constitution.

“A lot of people, as they all of a sudden are working down the ballot, they get used to seeing the R’s and D’s beside the name,” she said.

“All of a sudden they get to judicial candidates and it’s gone. I don’t really represent a political party, I represent the third branch of government and we’re neutral when it comes to party platforms, therefore the R’s and the D’s go away. You really have to be a student of your candidates.”

Kennedy said she has been speaking at civic and political organizations, including Republican and Tea Party organizations as well as such organization as Rotary and Lions Clubs. She said she has been answering questions about how the justice system connects to citizens.

She reminded those present that Ohio is among the state where judges are elected, though that was not the case in every state.

Kennedy spoke about the founding of Ohio and the other states formed from the Northwest Territory and Ohio’s modeling of the state constitution from the U.S. Constitution, including the separation of powers, with one change being the decision to elect judges.

She added that the judicial branch was designed to have neither the power to tax nor to enforce decisions through force of arms.

“As I look back in time,” she said. “Sometimes I think five pens have been mightier than taxation or the tip of a sword,” she said. “The job of the judiciary is to stand idly by and wait for the case and controversies to come to us.”

“(Voters) need to see the importance of who’s running for judges and making a decision of who they believe would best serve their philosophy of who a judge should be,” Kennedy said.

She quoted Ronald Reagan’s speech during the investiture of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia.

“‘The question isn’t whether we’ll have liberal or conservative courts, because the Constitution is not liberal or conservative. The question is whether or not our republic will live.’ What he meant was our republic lives when we have judges that will honor their limited role in government, that of judicial restraint, because that’s when your representative voice lives.”

Kennedy gave examples of conversations she has had with people who voted for President Donald Trump. She said very often one of the reasons given was the president’s duty to appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court.

She also said often a significant percentage of voters choose not to cast a vote for judges and added that judicial candidates do not have a party affiliation listed beside their name. She urged everyone to research their judicial candidates and to cast an informed vote during the elections.

“It is absolutely great for Justice Kennedy to come here an explain how the (Ohio) Supreme Court works, what its function is,” Bob Connors of Bridgeport, director of We the People Ohio Valley, said. “Some people don’t understand that judges are elected in many cases, and they need to know who they are and what they stand for…Anything the Supreme Court decides, the rest of us have to live by. They’re supposed to be looking after the Constitution, which is the law of the land. … People have concerns about decisions being made that they don’t understand. Mostly they don’t understand how that decision was made.”

“We need to find out the importance of solid judges, nationally, state and find out what we can do to get the word out more,” Dan Weber of Woodsfield, another leading member of the organization, said. “What can we do to make sure that good judges get elected?”

The organization meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Thursday of every month at the mall community room.

Prior to speaking at the meeting, Kennedy stopped by the Sons of Italy in Bellaire to have dinner with Belmont County Clerk of Courts Cynthia Fregiato. She also spoke with Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato about his work in establishing a veterans court in Belmont County to provide rehabilitation options for veterans who have committed crimes. Kennedy has been promoting veterans courts across the state and commended Fregiato for taking initiative.

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