Current Republican Ohio Supreme Court Justice Patrick Fischer, left, and Democratic challenger Terri Jamison. Official photos, graphic by WEWS.
The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.
The makeup of the upcoming Ohio Supreme Court is arguably the most important composition the state’s highest court has faced in decades.
The court has been Republican-controlled since 1986, but that could change this November. Three seats are open. These races are critical but often under-researched by voters.
The upcoming Ohio Supreme Court (OSC) will get to decide laws around abortion, the environment and LGBTQ+ rights. Voters on each side have said this is the most important court makeup in decades.
OCJ/WEWS is running a series on the OSC candidates. This is the final edition, which focuses on the second of the two justice positions.
Previous stories in this series:
Justices are supposed to be elected as nonpartisan candidates, but for the first time, the candidates’ party affiliations will be listed on the ballot. For clarity, OCJ/WEWS is using alphabetical order when sharing the candidate’s responses to the questions.
Pat Fischer is a Republican who has been an Ohio Supreme Court Justice since 2017 and is running for his current seat. He has previously served as a judge on the First District Court of Appeals and has practiced law for more than 30 years.
The justice graduated from Harvard Law School after attending Harvard College. He served two terms on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism, as well as chairing the Cincinnati Bar Association’s Ethics and Professional Responsibility. He was the president of the Ohio State Bar Association from 2012 to 2013 and served two terms on the board of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program. He was a founding member and president of the Cincinnati Children’s Museum.
Terri Jamison is a Democrat who is currently a judge on the Tenth District Court of Appeals but has also presided over the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. Jamison is barred in the southern district of Ohio and in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Having a much different background than Fischer, she was a laborer in the coal mining industry. After getting laid off, she moved to Columbus as a single parent and enrolled in Columbus State Community College before getting a degree from Franklin University. She then went to law school at Capital University. Once finished, she worked as a public defender at the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office and then created her own private practice. She was also a hearing officer for the State of Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission.
Both of these candidates’ answers are substantially shorter than the answers of the four other candidates, but they were still asked the same questions.
Fischer calls himself a “common sense textualist.” Textualism is a theory of looking at the ordinary language of the legal text instead of trying to look for the intent of why the bill was proposed, according to Congress.
“You read the text, you apply it with common sense words and common sense meaning and go from there,” he said.
Jamison focuses on reviewing all case law and all facts, she said.
“I’m currently on the appellate court, so I review the entire record,” she said. “I do my own research, read the briefs, and then apply proper standards and facts and analysis to a case.”
Of each of the three judicial races, these candidates had the most similar answer. This could be due to the appellate court typically following the precedent.
Redistricting and what they would have changed or hoped was different
Jamison argued that Fischer sided with his party instead of the law during the redistricting debate, but he disagreed. Fischer was in the minority vote, siding with the Ohio Redistricting Commission each time the new district maps went to the OSC. Although a federal court stepped in to choose the maps he gave clearance to, he didn’t think the process needed to be as drawn out as it was.
“I would have hoped that somebody else would have joined in one of my dissents,” the justice said. “That would have changed a lot of things and the law would have been enforced by its text.”
For Jamison, she would have followed the majority of the court.
“I can’t say that I would have done anything differently,” she said.
A case or a project in their career that they are proud of
Fischer is proud of a case that challenged him personally, but also proved he was able to help a group come to a conclusion on a controversial subject.
“It dealt with the death penalty and whether it’s constitutional,” he said. “And for somebody who was kind of brought up religiously by Jesuit priests, that was difficult — but I think it’s well-written and deals with the issue.”
One of the first cases Jamison had from the Tenth District is one of her favorite opinions. It dealt with the deterioration of a relationship, with one party trying to foreclose on the property of the other.
“I was able to research it, find the case law, and actually persuade my colleagues to follow a different statute,” she said. “We actually issued an opinion that probably is the first of its kind on that issue.”
Constitution as a living document
Fischer said the only way it could be referred to as a live document is because it is enforced every day.
“It must have continuous meaning and thus that meaning stays the same, otherwise people don’t know what their rights are,” he said.
Jamison approached the question in a different way.
“I believe that the amendments that have been made to the Constitution show that down through the years that it has evolved and changed as society changes,” she said.
Why should voters choose them
Fischer has wanted to be a lawyer since he was in eighth grade, and has been preparing to be a justice his entire life, he said.
“I am a very experienced lawyer and judge,” he said. “I tried cases all over the country. I tried cases in federal courts, state court. I represented both plaintiffs and defendants.”
He explained a tip for voters to know who he is and what he is about: remember the ‘C’ in his name.
“Fisher has the extra ‘C,’ for the Constitution and common sense,” he said. “I know that Constitution in and out, and that’s what you want out of a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court — to know the state constitution, which is something a lot of people don’t know much about.”
Jamison used her time to talk about her accomplishments, but also emphasized her integrity.
“I’ve been conscientious, I’ve been fair, I’ve been able to give people a voice when they come into the court and make them feel that they’ve been heard and issue decisions based solely on the law,” she said.
People want an independent judiciary that is looking at cases as they come to the court, not prejudging them, she added.
“I maintain the independence of the judiciary,” she said. “I follow the rule of ethics. I follow the rule of law and that’s what you want from the judiciary.”
The winner of the 2020 presidential election
Fischer and Jamison both had a definite agreement that Joe Biden is the president and won the election, much like Pat DeWine and Marilyn Zayas. Jennifer Brunner agreed with the four, making Sharon Kennedy the only one to “tread very lightly” on that response.
Want to learn the latest on where the candidates stand? OCJ/WEWS is here to help. We created a 2022 midterm elections guide, which is updated daily based on the changing candidacies.
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