It’s election season again and that means that there will be ads in the mailbox, a deluge of ads on television, and more candidate ads on social media. The Ohio Fair Courts Judge the Ads project encourages Ohioans to question and critique political advertisements. Our focus is on the ads surrounding the races for the Ohio Supreme Court. We aim to root out misinformation about the judicial system and empower voters to identify ads funded with secret money.

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Why are they spending so much money to try to influence your vote? What are they hoping to get out of it? It would be helpful if we were able to “follow the money” behind all the advertising. If we knew who was paying to try to sway our opinion, we could probably figure out why they were doing it and what they hoped to gain.Unfortunately, it is often difficult to tell who is behind political ads, including those for judges and justices. That is not an accident. Individuals and groups take pains to make it hard to see who is paying for ads by using “dark money” groups set up specifically to hide the source of funding. This makes it difficult for voters to figure out which candidates share their values and will work to promote the voter’s interests—not the interests of the dark money donors.

Political ads are just one way to get to know the candidates. Our goal is not only to highlight ways to make sense of political ads in judicial races but also provide ways to get more information about the candidates and about the court system.  

the 2024 races for Ohio Supreme Court

Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Forbes won her primary and is advancing to the general election. She will face Republican Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Dan Hawkins in November.  

There are two other races for the Ohio Supreme Court: 

  • Justice Melody Stewart (D, incumbent) v. Justice Joe Deters (R, incumbent). Justice Deters chose to challenge Justice Stewart rather than running to retain his own seat, leaving an open seat.
  • Justice Michael Donnelly (D, incumbent) v.  Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan (R). 


Decisions by the Ohio Supreme Court impact Ohioans’ daily lives. The state’s highest court determines whether utility companies can raise their rates and by how much, and how insurance laws are interpreted. The Ohio Supreme Court has determined and will continue to decide which government records are available to the public and the constitutionality of voting districts. Justices on the court may decide if someone is to live or die because, when a defendant is sentenced to death, the case is appealed directly to the Ohio Supreme Court.  

On the Judge the Ads site, you will learn:

  1. About the Ohio Supreme Court, why we should care, the 2024 candidates, and judicial ethics.
  2. About “dark money” and the history of secret money in Ohio Supreme Court elections.
  3. How to evaluate current political ads and follow the money.

If you have seen an ad about a candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, please share it with us