Thursday, August 02, 2007

Contentious Decision: Strickland Veto Invalid

The Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision yesterday in State ex rel. Ohio Gen. Assembly v. Brunner, 2007-Ohio-3780 (PDF). The Court determined that Governor Strickland's veto of a bill enacted during the final days of the 2006 Ohio General Assembly session was invalid. The Court's 5-2 decision was unusually contentious. The Court's press release describes the contention:
Pointing to past state and federal court decisions that he said have
consistently tied the start of a governor's ten-day review period to the date a bill is presented for his approval, Justice Pfeifer wrote:

“The majority today allows the General Assembly, through the manipulation of its adjournment, to effectively render a governor's veto power a nullity.... The majority defies common sense, the Ohio Constitution, the jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court and the supreme courts of other states, and this court's own prior “unmistakably clear” interpretation of the very same constitutional provision that is at issue today. The majority has achieved a new level of judicial activism -- a wholesale rewriting of the Ohio Constitution. And all the General Assembly had to do was ask.”

“Why is the majority deciding this way today? I do not know. In the ultimate display of result-oriented justice, its reasoning shifts. From the day of oral argument, the unfolding of the majority opinion has been the story of a result in search of a justification and an author,” Justice Pfeifer wrote.

Justice Maureen O'Connor entered an opinion concurring in the majority judgment and syllabus and taking exception to language in Justice Pfeifer's dissent that she said amounted to an “improper accusation that the majority has not decided this case of first impression with honesty and integrity.... The dissent states that our holding in this case was reached in a result-driven process that was started on the day the case was argued and that has been fueled by political considerations since then. Nothing could be farther from the truth.” Justice O'Connor asserted that the multiple concurring and dissenting opinions entered by different justices in the case “suggests, quite strongly, that the members of this court are not of one mind—or persuasion.”

“When judges and justices engage in robust discussion in furtherance of the search for consensus, we are rightfully expected by the people who elect us to act with respect and courtesy. In turn, we have often called upon attorneys to practice their profession with civility,” wrote Justice O'Connor. “Although civility is an amorphous concept in legal arenas, at a minimum it suggests proceeding without insult and ad hominem attacks when discussing those who hold an opposite view. Unfortunately, Justice Pfeifer disregards the same civility he once espoused in favor of a dissent filled with sarcastic scurrility.”