Step down immediately
Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill wore out his welcome on the high court weeks ago. His seeming inability to understand why anyone might be upset with him makes it clear he is unfit for the office he is seeking now — governor.
O’Neill announced Friday he is a candidate for the post. He joins a crowded field of Democrats seeking their party’s nomination.
In making his formal announcement, O’Neill added he will step down from the state Supreme Court on Jan. 26. During the seven-week interim, he will continue donning the black robe.
He ought to have resigned immediately — or, actually, in October when he began saying he would run for governor and started talking about his platform. It includes legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
Ohio’s judicial canons, the rules judges and justices are supposed to live by, prohibit them from taking political positions. O’Neill has thrown the rulebook in the trash can.
Individuals, organizations and companies with cases before the state’s highest court are entitled to the presumption that justices will rule objectively, strictly according to the law and the state constitution. O’Neill’s campaigning for governor, in which he takes stances on multiple issues, raises questions about his fairness.
Other events in his recent history do not inspire confidence, either. Earlier this year, O’Neill for some reason felt the need to brag about his romantic exploits. He boasted on Facebook that he had had sex with 50 “very attractive women.”
That prompted Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to remark, “No words can convey my shock. This gross disrespect for women shakes the public’s confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.”
So does remaining on the bench for months after making it clear one has strong, sometimes controversial, positions on public policy — and hopes to parlay them into a trip to the governor’s mansion.
O’Neill should have resigned in October. If he wants to salvage any vestige of public respect, he ought to step down from the court now.