The Columbus Dispatch, July 31
Ohio’s most powerful court ought to operate with the greatest possible transparency to promote confidence in the justice system. Instead, a process for resolving an ethics complaint against a sitting justice shields the legal reasoning behind its dismissal and keeps secret the identities of the judges hearing the matter.
Judges aren’t snowflakes; they are accustomed to controversial decisions. They take heat with grace. Why can’t the public know which panel of three judges cleared Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy, who to many ordinary citizens — but apparently not to a trained legal eye — appears to have crossed an ethical line?
The process presents another problem: The review of a grievance against a justice is conducted by a three-member panel drawn by lot from each appellate district; Ohioans are left to guess which three. The conflict of interest is obvious: Lower-court judges review a superior who rules on lower court decisions. Should a negative ruling prompt retribution, without knowing which appeals judges were involved, how is the public to tell?
An obvious answer is to conduct complaints against justices with greater transparency. Instead, Ohio’s secret process creates nettlesome doubts about the legitimacy of the review.
The (Toledo) Blade, July 31
President Trump has been rightfully lauded for compiling a highly competent Cabinet.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are all impressive and inspire confidence.
But the President sometimes seems to forget that they are there and that the Executive Branch consists of many players and several major ones — not just the President.
Worse, the President sometimes seems determined to run his administration from his phone’s keypad, tweeting out new directives 140 characters at a time.
Tweeting should be a means of communicating policy, not of making policy.
Jack Dorsey, one of the founders of Twitter, has explained that the company’s name was chosen after seeing a definition of twitter: “a short burst of inconsequential information.” The social media platform was never meant to be much more than that. It is not a deliberative or consultative medium.
Government matters. Military policy is serious business. Government by tweet is a terrible idea.
The (Ashtabula) Star-Beacon, July 27
Earlier this month, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a $3 million fine and turn over thousands of artifacts smuggled out of Iraq and the Middle East in yet another unfortunate display of corporate double standards.
According to the USA Today and Associated Press, the arts and crafts supplier known for its president’s strong religious beliefs bought $1.6 million of cuneiform tablets and other artifacts in a “clandestine” deal “fraught with red flags” — meaning Hobby Lobby knew what it was doing was wrong and went to great lengths to hide it, no matter what company officials claim about their motives.
In a great understatement, President Steve Green said the company “should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled.”
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t put the company above the law — and nor should a company that claims to be so steeped in religion need a fine to be encouraged to do what is right. Yet the fact is that while the fine is more than normally issued in such cases, to a huge company like Hobby Lobby it is a mere slap on the wrist. The “punishment” is unlikely to do much to deter Hobby Lobby or other companies — “Corporate America” continues to skate when it comes to lawbreaking and illegal, predatory practices.
The Akron Beacon Journal, July 29
For Ohio lawmakers to succeed in overriding the home rule authority of cities, they must show that their actions serve a larger statewide interest. They must make clear the circumstances are so significant that the state constitution no longer holds, or at least the language setting forth that municipalities “shall have the authority to exercise all power of local self-government.”
That is the precedent the Ohio Supreme Court rightly reaffirmed last week. A 5-2 majority struck down key provisions of a law, approved in late 2014, that limited the capacity of cities to deploy speed cameras or red-light cameras on their streets to heighten safety.
One hope, albeit slight, is that the Supreme Court ruling will resonate more deeply at the Statehouse, where cities long have taken a beating along policy lines. A proposal in the recent state budget process would have restricted the ability of municipalities to address lead poisoning. Thankfully, it was derailed.
Cities and other local governments have faced narrowed revenue streams, most notably, the slashing of the Local Government Fund and the elimination of the estate tax. The state has moved to limit the authority of cities to regulate guns and respond to oil and gas drilling.