Chief Justice Eric Brown said his presence on the Ohio Supreme Court gives the court some much-needed diversity.
Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Brown to the post on May 3, following the April 2 death of Thomas Moyer, a Sandusky native.
Brown, a Democrat, had already planned to run for the job following Moyer’s planned retirement.
He’s seeking the position full-term, but he’ll face Maureen O’Connor in the Nov. 2 election. O’Connor is a sitting Ohio Supreme Court justice who the Republican Party has put forward for the court’s top spot.
Until Strickland named Brown to the post, the Ohio Supreme Court had consisted entirely of Republicans.
Campaigning in Sandusky last week, Brown said he is “not entirely” referring to party affiliation when he refers to diversity, though “that’s certainly one dimension.”
He said he’s also the first Jewish chief justice in state history.
“It’s very important to be balanced on the court,” Brown said, adding that he can challenge the views of the other justices and make sure they think about how their rulings will affect real people.
Judges in Ohio run for office in primary elections, but in general elections the ballot doesn’t indicate which party they belong to.
The Ohio Democratic Party and other parties filed a federal lawsuit in Columbus on July 28 to overturn the rule for general election ballots, arguing that it only serves to conceal information from voters.
“Ohio voters have a right to know the political party that a judicial candidate is affiliated with,” said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. “The more information voters have, the better.”
Brown’s race against O’Connor received a bump in publicity recently when O’Connor came out with a plan to cut state court expenses by 10 percent.
Brown said O’Connor didn’t consult with her fellow justices before announcing her plan.
Brown, meanwhile, is following instructions from Strickland to prepare two court budgets — one that anticipates flat funding, and one that cuts discretionary spending by 10 percent.
Judges’ salaries are set by the state constitution and can’t be cut.
“I will not be seeking an increase for judicial salaries,” Brown said. “I’ve always looked hard at trying to preserve public resources.”
Brown said he’s agreed to participate in a debate with O’Connor.
“I believe that will happen,” he said.
A Cleveland native married to Franklin County commissioner Marilyn Brown, Brown said he also brings more than 30 years of public service to the chief justice job.
He was a probate judge in Franklin County when Strickland elevated him to the Ohio Supreme Court. He was also a Franklin County Common Pleas judge and magistrate, served 11 years as an assistant attorney general and was a 15-year school board member at Mayfield Schools.