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Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Worries Issue 1 Will Take Away the Power of Drug Courts

MAUREEN O'CONNOR
OHIO SUPREME COURT
O'Connor says the terms of Issue 1 are not clearly defined.

The top justice of the state’s highest court is speaking out about a constitutional amendment that's on the fall ballot. Issue 1 would require low-level drug offenders be charged with misdemeanors, not felonies. Supporters say money could then go to treatment instead of crowded prisons.

Justice Maureen O’Connor says she’s worried Issue 1 would take away drug court as an incentive judges can offer drug offenders, the only way she says the courts can ensure they get treatment. And it would allow for reduced sentences for inmates not convicted of murder, rape or child molestation – terms O’Connor says aren’t clearly defined.

“I think what’s been created here is some, via imprecise language and some unintended consequences, grave concerns for the implementation of this, should it pass, and a tremendous burden on the courts,” she said.

O’Connor also says the amendment wouldn’t have any effect on the federal system, where there is no opportunity to divert offenders to drug court.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.