Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French generally had a great reputation before joining the Ohio bench. Now, that reputation is in tatters.
French is one of the sitting Ohio Supreme Court justices seeking another term. She has received significant support from outside conservative groups.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that French has been touting her activist conservative credentials recently. She told a Republican group in Powell
“Whatever the governor does, whatever your state representative, your state senator does, whatever they do, we are the ones that will decide whether it is constitutional, we decide whether it’s lawful. We decide what it means and we decide how to implement it in a given case. So, forget all those other votes if you don’t keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative.”
In case anyone wasn’t clear what she meant, Justice French added:
“I am a Republican and you should vote for me . . . Let me tell you something, the Ohio Supreme Court is the backstop for all those other votes you are going to cast.”
As an appellate judge, French was generally regarded by the attorneys who appeared before her as a conservative judge who fairly called them like she saw them.
One case stands out. In 2007 French was appointed to sit on the case involving an interpretation of Ohio “Defense of Marriage” Constitutional Amendment, State v. Carswell. French voted with Chief Justice Moyer that the Defense of Marriage Amendment did not invalidate a significant portion of Ohio domestic violence laws. What is notable about this vote is that French voted against the position of the infamous conservative group who had sponsored the Amendment, Citizens for Community Values.
French’s excellent reputation has been tarnished pretty badly in this campaign as she has tried to burnish her activist conservative credentials.
Previously, we described how French pandered to the anti-abortion crowd by refusing to acknowledge that the United States Constitution includes a right to privacy. This, as we noted, means that she may not accept the holding in many non-abortion related cases that relied on this right, such as the Loving case which prohibited bans on inter-racial marriage and the Griswold case that prohibited a ban on the sale of contraceptives.
So what Justice French is saying is that she will be the support for Governor Kasich. She wants Republican voters to know that no matter what Governor Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the Statehouse do to implement their conservative agenda, she will interpret the law in a way to make sure that it is found to be constitutional. (“Backstop” is defined as “A person or thing placed at the rear of or behind something as a barrier, support, or reinforcement” (Oxford Dictionary).)
How will she act as Kasich’s backstop? Well, look at JobsOhio. As an article in Case Western Law Review noted, JobsOhio clearly violated the Ohio Constitution. Yet Justice French authored a decision finding that the courts could not strike down JobsOhio because nobody had proper “standing” to attack the law.
[Ed: French later tried to defend her remarks, telling the Dispatch, ““I’m a backstop, no matter who you are.” Response: But that is not what she said. Her “backstop” comments were right after she said, “I am a Republican and you should vote for me.”]
Why would French tie herself so tightly to Kasich? We have a theory: she wants to be appointed to the Supreme Court if Kasich runs for President and wins. That’s a good deal for a “backstop.”