Seeking reelection in November, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy made a visit to Williams County Tuesday, which included a 30-minute interview with The Bryan Times.
A Butler County Republican, Kennedy is challenged by Democrat John P. O’Donnell Nov. 3 for another six-year term on the state’s highest court
In 2012, Kennedy was elected to an unexpired term on the Ohio Supreme Court. In 2014, she was re-elected to a full term, winning all 88 counties with 73% of the vote. Kennedy is the 154th justice of the Supreme Court and ninth woman to serve on the court.
Tuesday, Kennedy touted her “two-fold” qualifications. “One, I have a proven track record (as a) justice that applies the law equally, impartially and fairly to all ... I believe my record demonstrates that I’m true to my word being an individual that will exercise judicial restraint ... that I not rewrite the laws that are before me, that I only give effect to the words that are written by the General Assembly, which is our (citizens’) voice.”
She also pointed to the programs and initiatives she’s accomplished or been involved with beyond the bench, noting that the justice system “is the place (to go) when all other societal institutions have failed an individual.
“It’s there (in court) we have an obligation to treat and help solve society’s problems ... and I think judges are universally suited for it because we are nonpartisan,” she said.
Beginning in 1999, prior to her term on the Ohio Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy served at the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, and from 2005 until the end of 2012, she served as the administrative judge of that division, where she said she championed a “common sense” family law initiative to make access to the court easier for Butler County residents.
In 1991, after obtaining her law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Kennedy was a solo practitioner in her native Hamilton County, and said it was during that time she partnered with juvenile court to write a CompassPoint program “to try to stop juveniles from progressing in the system (as an adult offender) or returning to the system (as a juvenile offender).”
The program’s website, www.compasspoint.org, said it seeks to “work with social justice leaders, organizations and movements to unleash their full potential for creating social change.”
Kennedy acknowledges she is probably best known as a strong advocate for a program called Lean Forward, which seeks to educate judges, probation and parole officers and others in the criminal justice system about the needs of veterans entangled in the court system. The program seeks to connect veterans to services such as job training and placement, and mental health and drug treatment programs.
Kennedy began her career in the justice system in the 1980s as a police officer at the Hamilton Police Department. As a jurist, she has received awards including: the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Silver Good Citizenship Medal, May 5, 2018; Leadership Ohio Community Leadership Award, 2016; Excellence in Public Service, June 2009; and Judge of the Year, 2006.
O’Donnell is a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge. In a second Supreme Court race on the Nov. 3 ballot, GOP Justice Judith French and Democratic challenger Jennifer L. Brunner, an Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals judge and former Ohio secretary of state, face off.
The four Ohio Supreme Court candidates have agreed to participate in a virtual forum Oct. 9.