Statement by Justice Maureen O’Connor (Republican), Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, on September 16, 2020
I condemn in the strongest possible terms both the statement released by the Ohio Republican Party on September 15, 2020, and its unsigned authors. The statement disparages the integrity of Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye. The publication accuses Judge Frye of colluding with the Ohio Democratic Party and labels him a “partisan judge.”
Every one of Ohio’s 722 judges, 800 magistrates, and numerous active-retired judges should be greatly concerned and voice their dismay at the irresponsible Republican Party allegation that politics controlled the judge’s decision. This is a blatant and unfounded attack on the independence of the Ohio judiciary. Contrary to the statements in this, disgraceful, deceitful piece, judges don’t decide cases based on partisanship. That would be easy. It is also a mistake to say that there is not a legitimate case in controversy. The only thing clear about this matter is that the law is not clear, and it remains to be seen what the ultimate interpretation of the statute will be.
To accuse a judge of deciding the matter before him on partisan politics and further accuse the judge of “obstruction of his judicial responsibility” is without merit and is meant to further the false narrative that judges have no conscience, no legal responsibilities, and no capacity to decide what the law is beyond the raw politics of the issue.
The Republican Party’s statement should be seen for what it is: part of a continuing string of attacks against any decision that doesn’t favor a political end, regardless of party, even if that decision may be legally correct and indeed legally required. I will not address the merits of the lower court’s decision. The case may very well find its way to the Supreme Court of Ohio, and I would be asked to weigh in then. I will retain my independence and sit on the Court to hear the matter if it does. Attacks on the judiciary only serve to undermine the public’s confidence in the courts. Attacks such as these, no matter the source, reflect poorly, not on the judiciary, but on the leadership of those who would perpetrate them.
Below is the attack by the Ohio Republican Party to which Justice O’Connor responded.