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'Bad idea': Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine condemns GOP's call for Supreme Court justice removal

Republicans call for impeachment of chief justice
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine
Posted at 8:00 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 20:00:26-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Statehouse is at a standstill, but that isn't preventing some Republicans from taking a stand.

Numerous Republican House members are now publicly calling for the impeachment of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. This is just the latest in the six-month struggle of getting the legislative maps done for the 2022 elections.

A bipartisan majority on the Court has now rejected the district maps for the third time. The most recent versions of maps were rejected in a 4-3 decision Wednesday night. This game of back and forth between the ORC and the Court is having major consequences. The Court struck down the Republican-passed legislative maps, citing constitutional violations of favoritism to one party, or gerrymandering.

The Justice, a Republican but acting as an independent voice on the high court, voted with the Democrats to strike down the GOP-passed legislative maps – citing they were unfair. This has angered members of the GOP and led them to call for her removal.

Gov. DeWine, who is not a stranger to impeachment threats, is now caught in the middle.

"I don't think that's a good idea," the governor said during a press conference Friday.

On Twitter, Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wayne County), the chair of the House state and local government committee, called for the Justice to be charged with a crime. Although it is not clear what offense he believes she committed since he didn’t respond for comment Friday.

However, Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) did post on Facebook and say that O’Connor violated the Ohio code by pushing back the election. O’Connor has never issued a statement declaring the primary date has been moved.

But that's not all. During a private GOP caucus phone call Thursday, House Majority Leader Bill Seitz and Rep. Jon Cross voiced support for impeaching Justice Maureen O’Connor, a person on the call told News 5 Cleveland's news partner the Ohio Capital Journal (OCJ).

Through a spokesman, Seitz declined to comment on caucus discussions but said Friday “nothing has been decided, and that all options are on the table,” according to OCJ. Cross, a Kenton Republican, declined comment, as well.

MORE ON THE CAUCUS MEETING

DeWine is firm in his stance that this is not what the General Assembly should be focusing on or doing.

"I think it's always dangerous when we, no matter how much we disagree with a court decision by a judge or by a panel of judges or the Supreme Court, no matter what we think of that opinion — this is an extraordinary measure to take," he added. "I don't think we want to go down that pathway because we disagree with a decision by a court, because we disagree with a decision by an individual judge or justice."

The governor then added another statement that this was not a good idea.

There have been eight impeachments in Ohio’s history, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission. They were all judges, but they all happened in the early 1800s. The judges were impeached for being absent without leave, holding statutes unconstitutional and unenforceable, “judicial arrogance,” and judicial incompetence. Seven of the eight were acquitted.

O'Connor and the Supreme Court did not respond for comment.

The governor says that the redistricting commission needs to follow what the court has said and he does believe there's a pathway, but they just need to get on with it since they have about ten days to produce new maps.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a directive Thursday night to boards of elections and a letter to legislative leaders saying it’s “no longer logistically possible” to include legislative races on ballots after the Ohio Supreme Court decision.

LaRose said they are still preparing the primary and have not pushed it back yet.

"We're gonna meet tomorrow," DeWine added. "I made a proposal yesterday, but I'm open to other proposals."

The Ohio Redistricting Commission will be meeting Saturday to start redrawing the legislative maps. The meeting should be “organizational,” so it seems to not have any public testimony or proposals.

RELATED: 'Chaos': Here are several solutions to redistricting mess

"We could take the two Republican map makers, and we can take the Democrat map maker," the governor said about his proposal. "We could pass a resolution by the commission, which simply would say, 'look, we're charging the three of you to work together.

"We're charging you to come back as quickly as you can with a map, a map that is consistent with the three opinions by the Supreme Court, as well as consistent with what the voters voted on and what is in the Ohio Constitution."

The Commission should also provide total access to all seven members of the commission to go into that room where people are working, have input and monitor what they're doing, he said. He also proposed additional public meetings. Democrats have suggested bringing in new nonpartisan map makers.

"Trying to bring someone new in to do this is difficult," he said. "Now I'm not saying it's impossible. If you can find the new people and find the balance so you get agreement between Republicans and Democrats and let them go [at it]. I'm not opposed to that either. So I think either, either course again, on the latter one, you'd have to make sure that you have the right people and you could bring them in and you get an agreement on that."

The Commission has until March 28.

"We need to follow what the court has said and we need to follow all the things the court has told us and three different opinions, but we also have to be able to match that or to do what the Constitution requires us to do," DeWine added. "So I think there's a pathway, I think there's a process and I think we need to get on with it.

DeWine said at the end of the day, just because you don't like someone's decision, doesn't mean they committed a crime.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.