“Outrageous Bail Rulings” ad from the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative
Watch the ad:
In this ad, a voiceover details past rulings issued by judicial candidates and says, “Outrageous bail rulings risk our safety. Yet Jennifer Brunner and Democrat justices on the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of lowering an alleged murderer’s bail. Judge Marilyn Zayas– She voted to dismiss the murder conviction of a man found guilty of killing in cold blood. Judge Terri Jamison– She would have thrown out evidence of drugs seized legally by police. Let’s stop these reckless judges. Keep soft on crime judges like Brunner, Zayas, and Jamison off the bench.”
Who's responsible for this ad?
This ad is paid for by the Republic State Leadership’s Judicial Fairness Initiative which is registered with the IRS as a 527. The Judicial Fairness Initiative states that “Since its formation, JFI has raised and spent more than $21 million in states across the country, including Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”
In 2020, the Judicial Fairness Initiative received $4,775,658 from the Republican State Leadership Committee which is also a 527. This is the only contribution that the Initiative received.
2022 contributions are not available, but Open Secrets has an overview of the Republican State Leadership Committee activities and an overview of top donors during 2020.
The Brennan Center for Justice’s Buying Time project has been tracking political spending in state Supreme Court races. Click here for information about political ads and spending in the Ohio Supreme Court races this year.
The ad identifies the following cases:
- Dubose v. McGuffey (2022-Ohio-8): In a 4-3 decision, with Justice Brunner as part of the majority, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a decision by an intermediate state appellate court to reduce the bail of a criminal defendant from $1,500,000 to $500,000, deeming the $1.5 million excessive. While the ad identifies “Democrat justices,” the majority included Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. The State of Ohio appealed on the grounds that trial courts should be permitted to consider public safety concerns when setting bail amounts. The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed and reiterated that the sole purpose of bail is to ensure a person’s attendance in court. Under Ohio Criminal Rule. 46, a trial court may not impose bail that violates the constitutional prohibition against bail in an amount higher than an amount reasonably calculated to ensure the accused’s presence in court. It should be noted that Justices and candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court Sharon Kennedy, Pat Fischer, and Pat DeWine disagreed with the majority and each wrote a dissenting opinion.
- State v. Jones (2020-281): Earl Jones was convicted on aggravated-murder, murder, and felony-murder charges. He appealed the aggravated-murder conviction. The First District Court of Appeals, with Judge Marilyn Zayas concurring, reversed that conviction based on lack of sufficient evidence and discharged Jones from further prosecution on that count. The First District Court of Appeals remanded the case for a new trial on the remaining murder and felony-murder counts. The Ohio Supreme Court reversed that decision and held that Jones could be retried on the additional charge of aggravated-murder.
- State v. Johnson (2022-1733): State v. Johnson challenged the scope of an inventory search of an impounded automobile following the lawful arrest of the driver. The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas granted a motion to suppress the evidence found during the search citing the officers exceeded the scope of a lawful inventory search. On appeal, the Tenth District Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in suppressing the evidence and the officers did not exceed the scope of a lawful inventory search. Judge Terri Jamison dissented and affirmed the trial court’s decision, noting “Police searches require warrants unless one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applies (e.g., consent, exigent circumstances, plain view). The search that occurred in this case did not fall into a known exception.”
Statement from Justice Brunner
Justice Jennifer Brunner issued this statement about the ad: