All 34 judges on the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court have been disqualified by Ohio's chief justice from hearing a lawsuit alleging corruption by the Republican party, the information-restricted Cleveland Plain Dealer reports Wednesday, via AP. Excerpts follow.
Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said on Tuesday the unusual move was necessary to eliminate any perception of bias by the court system that's dominated by Democrats. Moyer is a Republican. Moyer said he will appoint a retired visiting judge from outside Cuyahoga County to the case.
The suit, filed by the 2002 Democratic nominee for governor, accuses Gov. Bob Taft, other elected Republicans and the Ohio GOP of instituting a "pay-to-profit" system in which millions of dollars were raised by trading unbid state contracts for campaign contributions.
At the time, Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said the lawsuit was "frivolous, politically motivated and it ought to be dismissed." He said the Taft administration has strictly followed Ohio's competitive-bidding laws.
Taft and the other defendants asked Moyer on May 27 to disqualify the entire Cuyahoga County court because the judges' budgets, in part, are controlled by Hagan and two fellow Democratic commissioners.
Moyer noted in his decision that Hagan "exercises considerable authority over the budget" of the court.
"The public could reasonably question whether any judge now serving on the court of common pleas in Cuyahoga County would be able to render a decision based solely on the relevant facts and the law applicable to those facts," he said.
Kenneth F. Seminatore, Hagan's attorney, called Moyer's ruling "a very broad decision" that fits in with GOP efforts "to deep-six these issues and hope they go away" before the 2006 statewide elections.