More on the Free Speech Rights of Judicial Candidates

An Ohio appeals judge who plans to run for a spot on the Ohio Supreme Court is suing the state’s chief justice, saying the state’s rules on judicial campaigns are stifling her free speech.

Colleen O’Toole, a Republican judge on the 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals in Warren, wants a federal judge to overturn a state rule that allows judicial candidates to start raising campaign money only 120 days prior to a primary election.

O’Toole is one of at least four candidates who will be running for three open seats on the Ohio Supreme Court. The others, according to the lawsuit, are Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Cincinnati-based appeals judges Patrick DeWine and Patrick Fischer.

In her lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Columbus, O’Toole says she had $93.99 in her campaign accounts as of Dec. 31, while her opponents have thousands on hand. O’Connor, in particular, has $52,481, while DeWine has $245,493, the suit says.

This means both can start spending and actively campaigning, while O’Toole is severely limited, said her attorney, Curt Hartman. She believes this is a violation of free speech, and limits the “ability to compete on an equal footing in order to get our message out,” Hartman said.

O’Toole is also asking for an injunction to prevent the state from enforcing this rule while the case is being litigated.

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