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Ohio Bar says Supreme Court election ads are misleading, damaging

Ohio Bar says Supreme Court election ads are misleading, damaging (WKRC)
Ohio Bar says Supreme Court election ads are misleading, damaging (WKRC)
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CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The Ohio Bar Association says misleading TV ads are damaging Ohioan’s trust in Ohio’s judicial system. Three of the seven seats on the Ohio Supreme Court are up for grabs next Tuesday, and there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the race for those seats on our state's highest court.

One television commercial purports, "Now in judge's robes, Sharon Kennedy applies the law compassionately, continuing to support our families."

Another says, "I'm Judge Terri Jamison. The Supreme Court should be independent and treat everyone equally"

A third claims, "Fischer's strong support of the constitution and rule of law has kept murderers and rapists behind bars"

The ads are coming fast and furious from both sides of the political spectrum. But when an ad aired favoring Republican Judge Pat DeWine, his opponent and the Ohio Democratic Party cried foul.

It attacked DeWine’s opponent, Judge Marilyn Zayas, saying, "Zayas believes public safety should not be a factor when setting bail amounts. That's dangerous. Justice Pat DeWine believes your safety comes first."

"The ad that's being run attacking me seems to say that I have expressed some sort of belief,” says Judge Marilyn Zayas, (D) Supreme Court Candidate. “Which, of course, as a judge, it’s very important that whatever it is that I believe is not expressed."

"Our candidates took a clean campaign pledge intentionally with the Ohio State Bar Association,” said Liz Walters, Chairman, Ohio Democratic Party. “All of the Republican candidates were offered the chance and they declined. And now we see as a result that their political cronies are coming in and spewing outright lies."

And the Ohio Bar Association agreed. It asked the people paying for the ad to remove it. It is a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee called the Republican State Leadership Committee. The Bar Association said it is damaging the public trust in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of our judicial system. The PAC sent Local 12 a statement, saying the request is “a pathetic attempt to conceal the soft-on-crime records of [the Democratic judges.]

Political science professor Paul Beck from The Ohio State University says the stakes are high, and so is the level of rhetoric.

"We're seeing a flow here of millions of dollars into state election in the state of Ohio, but other states as well, that are often paid for by so-called dark money,” said Beck. “For judicial races, there’s sort of an ethic there that you don’t attack the opponent."

Those gloves appear to have come off in the races for the Ohio Supreme Court. The Bar Association has no real recourse when it comes to enforcing its election guidelines. It's actually the Ohio Supreme Court that can apply sanctions regarding the canons of judicial conduct. It may depend on which party ends up with a majority on the court whether we see any fallout from these negative ads.

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Local 12did reach out to the Pat DeWine campaign and the Ohio Republican Party for comment, but we have not heard back as of yet.

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