(WKBN) – Two current justices, Democrat Jennifer Brunner and Republican Sharon Kennedy, are vying for the position as Ohio Supreme Court justice this election.
The chief justice ultimately decides what the priorities are for the Supreme Court, and they serve as the head of all state courts.
Democratic Justice Jennifer Brunner has served on three levels of state courts and was Ohio’s first female secretary of state.
“My background has prepared me to be chief justice: No. 1 for the administrative experience I gained working as the Ohio secretary of state, because I also managed and supervise officials in all the 88 counties when it came to our elections,” Brunner said.
Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy began her career in law enforcement and said spending time in courtrooms inspired her to get a law degree.
“[I served] as a trial court judge for 14 years, and my last eight years was as the administrative judge of the division,” Kennedy said. “I was facilitating the same executive functions that a chief justice would do at the Ohio Supreme Court.”
Both justices said if elected chief, they would expand specialized dockets. Specialized dockets differ from regular courts because they typically seek to find the root cause of what is leading people to commit crimes. The goal is to then treat and rehabilitate offenders, rather than just jail them.
Brunner said she helped develop drug courts — which deal with non-violent criminal cases involving drugs.
“When I started the court in 2004, the Supreme Court actually followed me along in the development process to create a handbook for other courts on how to start a drug court,” Brunner said. “Specialized dockets do work.”
Kennedy said she’s focused on expanding veteran treatment courts, which like drug court help with substance abuse disorder.
“I have met so many veterans across Ohio for those Vietnam veterans who who took my hand to say, ‘I’ve never left the jungles of Vietnam since I’ve come home. Every night, I’m in the fight,'” Kennedy said.
The winner will take over for Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who has aged out of serving on the court.