Voter Guide 2022: 6 candidates seek 3 seats on Ohio Supreme Court in November election
Welcome to the 2022 Voter Guide produced by the League of Women Voters and Akron Beacon Journal with funding from the Knight Foundation.
This file focuses on three races for the seven-member Ohio Supreme Court, including chief justice.
This year's general election on Nov. 8 will see Ohioans voting for an array of local and statewide offices and local issues. Early voting began Oct. 12 at the Summit County Board of Elections Early Vote Center, 500 Grant St., Akron.
Candidate responses are not edited or vetted by the League of Women Voters or Beacon Journal to allow them to speak in their own words.
Interactive Voter Guide
If you click on the first link below, you can provide your address and see a customized ballot with your local races and issues only. If you prefer to find your own races, scroll down lower on this page.
2022 Election: Summit County Voter Guide
List your judicial experience (courts and years). Justice, Ohio Supreme Court, since January 2, 2021, elected November 3, 2020. Judge, Tenth District Court of Appeals, November 30, 2014 – January 1, 2021, elected 2014, reelected 2016, resigned 2021 to take seat on Ohio Supreme Court; Judge, Franklin County Common Pleas Court, December 1, 2000 – August 31, 2005; elected 2000, reelected 2002, resigned 2005 to run successfully for Ohio Secretary of State.
What non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge? I have 17 years private law practice experience representing clients in state trial and appellate courts throughout Ohio, the Ohio Supreme Court, federal courts in Ohio, state and federal agencies outside of Ohio and Ohio state and local administrative agencies. I have represented clients in and out of litigation regarding their business concerns, their public participation in matters such as initiative and referendum, nonprofit and campaign work and private individuals on personal matters. The practice of law is a calling and I value it for the service lawyers can provide to the public in furthering the effectiveness of the rule of law for all.
Why are you running for this particular court seat? I’m running for Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court because justice matters for every Ohioan. Steady and principled leadership of the state’s highest court is essential to helping Ohioans realize justice in their everyday lives. Ohio is a very diverse state with deep rural roots, storied urban communities and countless small and middle-sized towns and cities. I take seriously my responsibility as one of seven people elected to do justice for all the people of Ohio. I am grateful for what I’ve learned from Ohioans in my many years of service to them, working at three levels of the state’s courts and as Ohio’s first female secretary of state. Administrative and policy leadership of the court is not about an ideology of who should win and who should lose. It is about a belief and understanding that courts are only as effective as people believe them to be. Good judges and fair courts can lift the confidence Ohioans have in their judiciary. I know that courts can do good things for people; protect their health, safety and welfare with fairness, equality and respect. I am committed to doing this every day now and as Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. I am further committed to using the power of the court to help lift the vision of all judges to why we serve and the power we have to do good for all Ohioans.
Sharon L. Kennedy
List your judicial experience (courts and years). Ohio Supreme Court Associate Justice 2012–Present; Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Division Administrative Judge/Judge 1999–2012; Butler County Area Courts, Magistrate & Warrant Officer, 1995–1998.
What non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge? A: Attorney at Law – General Practice, 1991–1998; Effectively and successfully handled criminal, civil, juvenile, probate and domestic relations litigation and appellate matters. Butler County Juvenile Court: Warrant & Compliance Officer, 1996–1997. Special Counsel to Ohio Attorney General, Betty D. Montgomery 1995–1998. Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 38: Disciplinary Counsel, 1991–1998. Butler County Court of Common Pleas: Director, Victim/Witness Division, 1989–1991. Law Clerk for the Honorable Matthew J. Crehan, Judge. Hamilton Police Department: Police Officer, Civil Assistant, 1985–1989
Why are you running for this particular court seat? I am running for the Chief The role of the Chief Justice is unique. The Chief manages the daily operations of the Supreme Court of Ohio while addressing the needs of Ohio's courts and setting the vision for the future. I am uniquely qualified to serve as Ohio's next Chief Justice. I have served Ohioans and their communities in the justice system for 37 years - from police officer, to attorney, to trial court judge, and now a Justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. During the last eight years of my service in the trial court I served as the administrative judge of the division performing the same executive tasks that a Chief Justice performs. Ensuring the timely resolution of cases, overseeing and managing the daily operation of the division and effectively resolving issues by working from the premise, "Would the people be better served?" While serving the legal needs of families and the less fortunate in private practice I partnered with the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division to teach life-skills to juveniles to break the cycle of recidivism. As a trial court judge I collaborated with Butler County Jobs and Family Services and implemented a jobs program to help breakdown the barriers and obstacles to those in need of gainful employment. I also facilitated the Abuse Neglect Improvement Project with the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division. And during tough economic times I formed and facilitated the Budget Workgroup and the Advisory Committee to the Budget Workgroup which developed sound fiscal policies for Butler County. As an Associate Justice I have initiated “Lean Forward: Advancing the Treatment of Veterans Across Ohio” and annual statewide summit. Through that work I have educated sheriffs, judges, magistrates, and probation and parole officers about the treatment resources available for justice-involved veterans. And I have maintained an active speaking schedule talking to civic organizations and students about our tripartite system of government, the Ohio judicial system and how it affects our daily lives, gives audiences a look behind the scenes at the Ohio Supreme Court and discusses the common misperceptions of the Right of Free Speech. I also encourage young people to chase their American Dream by sharing her journey from police officer to Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio. As Ohio's next Chief Justice I will continue my "Lean Forward" initiative and will collaborate with local judges, community leaders and the people who access the courts to address the needs of the people Ohio courts serve from the premise "would the people be better served". Foremost, is the need to timely resolve cases in the aftermath of COVID-19, strengthen and grow specialty courts, address criminal justice reforms while still protecting the safety of victims and communities, and help the people learn more about the judges who serve their communities.
Justice (1/1/23 term)
List your judicial experience (courts and years). Justice, Ohio Supreme Court, January 1, 2017-present. Judge, Ohio First District Court of Appeals, Hamilton County, December 2010-20
What non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge? Much of my non judicial legal experience is listed above. And there are a few points I wish to emphasize. First, I have been a licensed attorney since 1984, and licensed as an Ohio attorney since 1988. I have won decisions from so many differing state and federal trial courts throughput this nation I cannot count all of them. I have been victorious in many state appellate district courts in Ohio, as well as the Sixth, Second, and Tenth federal appeals courts. I even won a case in the US Supreme Court. I have a vast experience that few attorneys develop. I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants for decades. I had cases in Ohio, plus Kentucky, Illinois, Texas, California, Colorado, Alabama, and other states. My clients consistently re-hired me to handle their legal problems. I believe lawyers respect me too. I have been elected president of the Ohio State Bar Association by a vote of its lawyers. I served as president of the Cincinnati Bar Association too. In those and in related endeavors I have chaired ethics, professionalism, and numerous other committees, because lawyers trust my judgment. I understand all parts of the American justice system. And I want to continue to improve them. When I am re-elected, I will continue my efforts to make the courts of Ohio even more efficient (I have had some success cutting time off our cases already), all while maintaining its high quality and its integrity.
Why are you running for this particular court seat? I am running for this position because I want to make the Ohio courts the best state court system in this nation, a goal I have been heading towards for the last 12 years.
List your judicial experience (courts and years). I was elected in 2012 to serve on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations - Juvenile Branch. I began service on January 5, 2013, was re-elected in 2018, and resigned from that position on June 30, 2021. In total, I served on this court 8 1/2 years. I was elected to the Ohio Court of Appeals in 2020 and began service on July 1, 2021. I am currently one of eight judges on the court. I've been on the court for one year.
What non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge? I owned and managed a multi-line insurance agency for 16 years. In that capacity, I hired, trained, and developed staff, managed and reconciled receipts, negotiated contracts for office space, phone systems, computer equipment, and grew a book of business while maintaining quality. I have great people skills that translate into treating litigants with empathy, dignity and respect. I have active listening skills that developed from listening to potential clients to be sure that I was meeting their policy needs. I was an extern with the Civil Rights Section of the Attorney General's Office. In that capacity, I learned how to review a case file, prepare it for court, and prepare the discovery documents to illicit information. I have developed a critical eye and can do analysis of the law and facts. I was a hearing officer intern for the Bureau of State Hearings and an intermittent hearing officer for Unemployment Compensation Review Commission. I heard administrative appeals and issued a decision within the 30 day timeline. I learned how to rule on objections, admit evidence, give the oath to take testimony, make findings of fact and conclusions of law, and judge credibility of witnesses.
Why are you running for this particular court seat? I am seeking election to the Ohio Supreme Court for two fundamental reasons: First, to preserve and strengthen the Court’s Constitutionally granted status as an independent and co-equal branch of state government, and Second, to use my seat on the Supreme Court to ensure that the promise of “Equal Justice Under Law” becomes a reality for all Ohioans. The importance of an independent Court has been demonstrated as a 4-3 majority defends democracy and upholds the express will of the people by deflecting attempts to unfairly gerrymander the state’s General Assembly and Congressional districts. With the retirement of the Chief Justice, it is imperative that a fourth justice that believes strongly in democracy is elected to the court. The court is the keeper of the scales, the check and balance on other branches of government. To convert “Equal Justice Under Law” from concept to reality, I will work hard every day to restore public trust in our legal system, to abide by and to hold others to the highest possible ethical standards, to dispense justice fairly and equitably, to strive to ensure that all persons have access to the courts and competent legal counsel, to set an example for jurists at every level of our court system, to take affirmative steps to eliminate burdensome costs, and unnecessary delays, and to ensure that every litigant is provided with a fair hearing and the opportunity to be heard.
List your judicial experience (courts and years). Jan. 2009-Mar. 2013: Judge, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Cincinnati Ohio; Mar. 2013-January 1, 2017: Judge, First District Court of Appeals, Cincinnati Ohio; January 2, 2017–Present: Justice, Ohio Supreme Court
What non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge? I bring a unique perspective to the Ohio Supreme Court because of my service in other branches of government and every level of Ohio courts. As a Cincinnati City Councilmember, I dealt with some very difficult issues involving our legal system and the community. I served as Chair of the Law Committee immediately following the riots in Cincinnati and was deeply involved in a collaborative process that made significant and sustained improvements in police-community relations. My service on City Council and the County Commission has given me a keen understanding of the role of the other branches of government and the impact of our judicial system on these branches. I have also served as a judge at all three levels of Ohio’s courts, something very few judges can say. This has helped me understand how the supreme court can work with and improve judicial functions across every court in Ohio.
Why are you running for this particular court seat? I care deeply about this state and its legal system. If we are going to prosper as a state, we need communities where people feel safe. Without safe communities, people will not want to live, invest or create jobs in our state. As Justice, I can plan an important role in making sure that the rule of law is protected in Ohio. I also believe strongly that a stable and predictable legal environment is critical to our economy. Judges should strictly apply the law as it is written. We may not impose our own personal viewpoints but must adhere strictly to the law and the constitution. When we act in the manner we ensure fairness and equal treatment because the same rules apply to everyone. We also create a stable and predictable legal environment that encourages people to want to live and create jobs in this State.
List your judicial experience (courts and years). Judge at Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals, 2016 – Present; Judge by special assignment at Ohio’s Second, Sixth, Tenth, and Eighth District Courts of Appeals, Judge by special assignment at Ohio’s Supreme Court. Ohio Supreme Court Board on Character & Fitness, Commissioner, December 2018-February 2022. I have served our community as a judge at Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals since 2016, when I was first elected, winning against an incumbent appointed by the governor. I am the first Latina elected to any Ohio appellate court. In 2018, I was re-elected by an overwhelming majority of over 60% of the voters. I have decided over 1,000 appeals throughout Ohio. Additionally, I have served by appointed of Ohio’s Chief Justice on the Second, Sixth, Eighth, and Tenth District Courts of Appeals and on a case at the Ohio Supreme Court. Never could I have dreamed as a girl growing up in tough New York City neighborhoods that I would have this opportunity. I moved to Ohio, my utopia, 34 years ago to work in technology with Procter & Gamble. With hard work, dedication, and mentorship, much can be achieved.
What non-judicial legal experience qualifies you to be a judge? My background allows me to take an independent approach to each case, with a focus on maintaining integrity and impartiality. I advocated for clients for 20 years from all over the world and from all walks of life. Some were millionaires, some were impoverished. Most spoke English, some did not. Several were persons of color. I treated all of them with the utmost dignity and respect. I litigated in both state and federal courts. I earned a reputation as an attorney who provides honest and zealous representation while navigating complex and extremely intricate cases. My legal career began as an intellectual property and labor and employment attorney. Later, I worked for the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office representing adults and juveniles who could not afford to hire an attorney. I founded my own legal practice which focused on immigration law. I was known as the go-to attorney for complex immigration cases. I handled cases involving foreign investors who were bringing new businesses to America, in addition to family visas and asylum, and a variety of immigration appeals in federal courts. I am very proud of the work I have done as an appellate judge. I clearly and concisely explain my decisions with the goal that those impacted are confident that their case was fully and fairly resolved. My decisions are detailed, well-analyzed, and rooted in the Constitution and the law.
Why are you running for this particular court seat? I am running for the Ohio Supreme Court because you deserve a justice who will apply the law equally to all, regardless of circumstances or politics, and who has the courage to take on the challenging issues we are facing in Ohio, understands that a vibrant economy requires people who can realize their potential, and respects the civil liberties we expect, enjoy and are responsible for. My vast and varied experience enables me to fully understand the complex legal issues we are currently facing. This comes from my experience as an appellate judge, 20 years of experience advocating for clients, career at Procter & Gamble as an IT Manager, and overcoming a tough childhood in New York City. In 2021, I was recognized by Good Morning America for my community contributions, including my work with students. The issues my campaign is centered on are: Access and Accountability: I support a statewide publicly accessible sentencing database where anyone can review sentences across counties for similar offenses with similar circumstances. Additionally, I seek to expand specialty dockets that provide proven tools for success including mental health, drug, and veterans’ courts. Advance resources that reduce the risk of wrongful convictions: This includes implementing the 2002 Ohio Supreme Court’s Racial Fairness and Implementation Taskforce recommendation that all criminal defense attorneys receive formal training in the basics of criminal defense. Enlarge Student Programs: To foster understanding of our courts and inspire students to dream big regardless of the obstacles they face.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: 2022 Ohio election: Meet Supreme Court candidates