|This fall, Ohioans will be asked to consider a constitutional amendment to change the way the state draws legislative and congressional district maps. Because of the amendment’s direct impact on the Ohio judiciary, the Ohio State Bar Association opposes passage of the amendment.
Currently, the Ohio Legislature and the Apportionment Board redraw state and congressional district maps every 10 years to reflect population shifts. The proposed measure would create a 12-person citizen commission consisting of registered voters selected and vetted through a panel of appellate court judges. Further, the proposed amendment could force the Supreme Court of Ohio to select a plan should the commission be unable to come to an agreement, and if a court battle ensued over the proposed commission's plan, the proposal could force the Supreme Court of Ohio to choose between possibly unconstitutional plans. While the OSBA takes no position on the merits of the proposed constitutional amendment on redistricting (i.e., we take no position on whether the legislature, the Apportionment Board, the commission or any other entity should draw congressional district and state general assembly lines), we have deep concerns about requiring judges of Ohio's Courts of Appeal to vet and appoint commission members, and the proposed amendment’s attempt to force the Supreme Court of Ohio, or any court, to select a proposed commission plan. The proper role for the judiciary is not to develop any redistricting plan, but rather to review such plans should they be challenged in court.
This proposed amendment:
All of this undermines the importance of maintaining a fair, impartial and independent judiciary—a sacred and fundamental principle of our constitutional democracy.
- Undermines the important constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers where each of the three co-equal branches undertakes particular responsibilities. This proposal inappropriately takes executive and legislative appointment authority and moves it to the judiciary. This politicizes the judicial branch of government, which must remain independent, fair and impartial;
- Involves the Chief Justice and the appellate judges in political activity unbefitting their offices because the proposal would not insulate these judges from attempted political influence by interest groups in terms of commission appointments and plan selection; and
- Places these judges, and Ohio’s judicial branch as a whole, in a potential position of conflict should the proposal become law and should a plan face judicial review.
For these reasons, it is the position of the OSBA that it is inappropriate for the judiciary to be involved in the political process that initiates and proposes political boundaries and that the amendment should not be adopted.
By directly involving the judicial branch of our Ohio government in the most political of activities, that is, redistricting, the proposed amendment attacks a most fundamental of constitutional safeguards, the separation of powers. Therefore, the OSBA opposes this proposal.