No money from nobody

He tries again:

For the third time in eight years, former state appellate judge William M. O’Neill will try to replace a Republican incumbent on the Ohio Supreme Court. O’Neill, who retired from the 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren in 2007, defeated Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon A. Rucker in today’s Democratic primary.
With 73 percent of precincts reporting, O’Neill led 72 percent to 28 percent in the state’s only contested primary for Supreme Court. He moves on to face Justice Robert R. Cupp, who was unopposed today, in November. The high court is dominated by the GOP, 6-1.
The Ohio Democratic Party backed Rucker, 40, over O’Neill, 64, in the race. O’Neill refuses to raise money for his campaign, saying justices become beholden to the private interests that fund their campaigns.
In 2004 and 2006, O’Neill won Democratic primaries but lost to Justice Terrence O’Donnell, a Republican, in the general election.

Okay, full disclosure; I helped O’Neill in his last losing general judicial campaign in 2006. I didn’t do much, although I did hand these out at parades:

There is a small printing press in the garage of Judge O’Neill. In the evenings, he and his children produce fliers for a long-shot no-money campaign for Justice O’Donnell’s seat on the Ohio Supreme Court. “We’re going to do a million pieces for $4,000 from my pocket,” Judge O’Neill said, explaining that he will not accept a penny in contributions. Even some of his supporters view his effort as quixotic, notwithstanding the higher ratings Judge O’Neill gets from many Ohio bar associations.

2006 was a very good year for Democrats in Ohio, so no one in the county Party was at all interested in O’Neill’s quixotic campaign. It was a little lonely out there at those parades, handing out the homemade fliers, although people don’t pay attention to judicial elections so when you’re asking for votes at a parade people sometimes assume you’re the judge who is running.

“Thank you for coming out, judge”, they say, as you cram the flyer into their hand. Oh, my pleasure, but I prefer “your honor”, so show some damned respect. And take that ball cap off, young man, and look at me when I’m speaking to you. I was sick with black robe disease and I’m not even a judge. I don’t know if my inadvertent impersonation of then-Judge O’Neill helped him or hurt him in 2006, but I can’t explain every little thing to everyone on a parade route.

From the 2006 race:

Judge O’Neill’s assertion that seats on the Supreme Court are for sale infuriates many in the legal establishment in Ohio, and in July 2004 the Disciplinary Counsel of the Ohio Supreme Court began an investigation into whether Judge O’Neill had violated judicial ethics by making similar statements in the last campaign.
Judge O’Neill laughed when asked if the investigation worried him.
“I am a Vietnam veteran, and I lost my wife 10 years ago,” he said. “I raised four kids by myself. When you talk about fear, I fear big things in life. Being hauled before a disciplinary counsel does not qualify.”
For the time being, a federal judge has suspended the investigation on First Amendment grounds. If the Ohio Legislature is troubled by Judge O’Neill’s conduct, the federal judge, Ann Aldrich wrote, “the proper solution is to stop electing judges and make state judgeships appointed offices.”
Judge O’Neill disagreed. He likes elections, he said.
“We have more authority over people’s lives than anyone else in elected office,” he said. “We decide who goes to jail and who gets out of jail. We decide what happens to your life savings after you die. We decide whether or not you will be permitted to finish raising your child. I can’t think of any other industry that has a more profound impact on people’s lives. And it is arrogant at best that some committee should make this appointment.”

This is O’Neill’s site. See what’s missing? A donate button.

24 replies
  1. 1
    KG says:

    Partisan judicial elections? And I thought the non-partisan ones we have in California were bad

  2. 2
    burnspbesq says:

    I love this guy, but “Quixotic” doesn’t being to describe his campaign.

    Judges shouldn’t be elected. Period, full stop.

  3. 3
    shortstop says:

    Nice.

  4. 4
    PeakVT says:

    I’m not fan of judicial elections at all. But I’d vote for that guy if I could.

  5. 5
    Fwiffo says:

    I love this guy, but “Quixotic” doesn’t being to describe his campaign.

    It’s not an adjective I often find the need to amplify, and I’m objectively pro-quixoticism.

  6. 6
    Democratic Nihilist, Keeper Of Party Purity says:

    I appreciate the gesture in some ways, but frankly the overall effect is to continue to lend cover to the idea that money doesn’t have to play any part in politics, and those making a big fuss over it are just getting themselves worked up over nothing.

    Which is manifestly not true.

    He’s obviously a good guy. Get some backers who aren’t scum of the earth and get the man onto a court. But knock off this purity shit, it just insures that the seat stays with the GOP crime syndicate.

  7. 7
    beergoggles says:

    So another case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good?

  8. 8
    kay says:

    @Democratic Nihilist, Keeper Of Party Purity:

    But knock off this purity shit

    Well, you’ll have to persuade him, because he won a primary. Democrats tried to keep him off the ticket, but he just keeps coming :)

  9. 9
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    Sort of OT but I was listening to Hannity pimping the Breitbart video the other afternoon and I had an epiphany of sorts. It was when he was talking about how he is doing an “Obama project” to “vet” POTUS, and I yelled at the radio (I do that a lot with him and Limbaugh) “you dumb ass Sean, as if any of your listeners would ever vote for Obama anyway”. That is when it hit me, they are just preaching to the choir, nothing they say will change the minds of their listeners or viewers, nothing.

    BTW the only “national” ads today on Limbaugh in my area were “Lou Dobbs Money Report” and Lifelock. Everything else was local, which of course he does not make any money off.

  10. 10

    Here’s why judges should be appointed: there are only so many elected offices that most people can pay attention to. And with only the rarest of exceptions, elections for judges fall below the line for most people.

    This is something Matt Yglesias has harped on in the past, and he’s right. Have just a handful of elected officials, and give them the power to appoint people to all those other offices. That includes judges.

    Sure, maybe in theory judges should be elected, due to the power they hold. But if people usually aren’t going to pay attention to judicial elections, then it’s a bad idea to elect judges. End of story.

  11. 11
    kay says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    I can’t decide, but I’ve heard both sides, so here’s the election side:

    If we have appointments, the judges will all come from the same “pool”: big firm lawyers, or state lawyers (in some capacity). No diverse experience, and you’ll never get, say, a public defender. The fear is the judges will come from a small, well-connected group, and we’ll end up with a predictable “track” for a lawyer who wants to be a judge to take.

  12. 12
    shortstop says:

    @kay: Even more than that, the appointment argument assumes that those doing the appointing are more free of bias, self-interest or political agendas than voters are. While I will happily acknowledge that the appointers bring a greater understanding of the judicial system to the process, I’m not quite ready to concede their moral superiority or virtuous motives.

  13. 13
    KG says:

    @Democratic Nihilist, Keeper Of Party Purity:

    but frankly the overall effect is to continue to lend cover to the idea that money doesn’t have to play any part in politics

    this is the problem, judges don’t deal with politics, they deal with law. Law and politics, while related (like, say, weather and climate) are not the same thing. Electing judges, especially in partisan elections makes a mockery of the concept of an independent judiciary.

  14. 14
    kay says:

    @shortstop:

    I’m not quite ready to concede their moral superiority or virtuous motives.

    Too, in the appointment approach, honestly, it’s just an election, once removed.

    At the federal level, we elect a president who then appoints the judges. I don’t know that it’s all that pure and unsullied, really. Everyone knows they’re electing the guy that appoints the judges. Campaigns raise money off it.

  15. 15
    Jack the Second says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    This is something Matt Yglesias has harped on in the past, and he’s right. Have just a handful of elected officials, and give them the power to appoint people to all those other offices. That includes judges.

    Congratulations, you’ve just described the electoral college. :-P

  16. 16
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Jack the Second:

    Congratulations, you’ve just described the electoral college

    Rick Santorum thinks the electoral college is for snobs. Electoral high school should be good enough for most Americans.

  17. 17
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    There is a small printing press in the garage of Judge O’Neill.

    In Judge O’Neill’s garage?

    or

    Judge O’Neill has a small printing press in his garage.

    no need to back into a sentence like that.

  18. 18
    Elias says:

    Umm… so who’s starting the SuperPAC for Judge O’Neill? We need to get the high flying ads a-rolling.

  19. 19
    tofubo says:

    wow, someone running for office who won’t take any money because they think it is one of the root causes of ineffectual governance

    it’ll never work

  20. 20

    @kay: He may indeed be a fine fellow to run in the race, but I have a bias toward Fanon, whom I know and respect. Personally because he’s a really nice, really bright guy who’s conscientious on the muni bench. And electorally, because he damned near beat Joe Deters (the “almost” incumbent, as he’d been that official prior to the guy who resigned after the filing deadline) a campaign for Hamilton County Prosecutor. Given the depth of ranks of the GOP machine here, that was no mean feat.

    All that said, this O’Neill fellow sounds charming. If only he had a shot. Though this year, who knows?

  21. 21
    kay says:

    Bella, I don’t know O’Neill at all, although I think I had a bizarre phone conversation w/him in 2006 where I thought he was someone else for the entire phone call.
    I’m just a sucker for such tenacity :)
    Fanon was probably the better choice, if we want to, you know, WIN.

  22. 22
    Bill Murray says:

    @KG:

    Electing judges, especially in partisan elections makes a mockery of the concept of an independent judiciary.

    as opposed to having a partisan official appoint them? How is that a mockery of the concept of an independent judiciary?

  23. 23
    Sancho says:

    Kay, you talked me into it. I looked over his website, and volunteered. I haven’t felt this giddy since working on the Mike Ferner campaign for Toledo mayor back in ’93

  24. 24
    Dennis Doubleday says:

    He should accept small contributions, say, nothing over $25. That would help him get elected without making him beholden to anybody.

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