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    Canddiates Attacked for Links to Lawyers

    BY James Bradshaw
    10/19/2000
    by James Bradshaw on 10/19/00.

    Another "education'' committee has joined the mulligan stew of groups attempting to influence this year's Ohio Supreme Court races.

    Ohio Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Buckeye chapter of a national organization that promotes free- market economics and reduced government, released a statement yesterday with the headline, "Some Ohio Supreme Court candidates in the pockets of trial lawyers.''

    Jason Gross, director of the state organization, said trial lawyers have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Justice Alice Robie Resnick and Judge Tim Black of the Hamilton County Municipal Court. Both are Democrats.

    Resnick seeks election to a third six-year term on the court. Black is attempting to unseat Justice Deborah L. Cook, who is seeking her second term on the court. Resnick is opposed by Judge Terrence O'Donnell of the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals.

    Cook and O'Donnell are Republicans. Gross said less than 1 percent of the contributions to Cook and O'Donnell come from trial lawyers.

    Citing a survey by the American Tort Reform Association, Gross said frivolous and malicious lawsuits targeting schools are an increasing concern.

    "Our principals and teachers should be free to focus on saving our children from illiteracy. Instead, they must worry about greedy trial lawyers who have found schools to be easy prey,'' Gross said. "Hopefully, voters will see through the smoke and vote in a fair and reasonable Supreme Court that will save our schools and legal system from exploitation.''

    Bill Burges, consultant for Resnick's campaign, said the entry of another anonymously supported "citizens'' group in the campaign is not surprising.

    "There must not be enough trees in the forest for these big, brave people to hide behind,'' Burges said.

    He said the inference that teachers oppose Resnick's re-election is at odds with the fact that the state's two largest teacher unions, the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers, have both endorsed her.

    "It's clear from what I see that she enjoys an awful lot of support from people around the state who worry about the real issues,'' Burges said.

    Businesses, insurance interests and hospitals are backing groups opposing Resnick; unions and trial lawyers are supporting her.

    Resnick is targeted because of her support of several 4-3 court decisions, including two rejecting attempts by the Ohio General Assembly to limit multimillion-dollar damage awards in lawsuits. Cook dissented on those decisions.

    A business-backed committee, Citizens for a Strong Ohio, is airing a television commercial linking court decisions and trial-lawyer contributions to Resnick with the caption: "Is justice for sale?''

    The Ohio Elections Commission is holding an expedited hearing today about the ad, which Common Cause-Ohio says unfairly insinuates bribery, is an illegally funded campaign ad and should be ordered off the airwaves.

    The committee is labeled a voter- education group, so it does not have to name contributors and can accept corporate donations, which are illegal for political-action organizations.