Justices have possible conflicts

By Randy Ludlow - The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two Ohio Supreme Court justice recused themselves Friday from hearing a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate a referendum attempt to cast aside the House Bill 6 bailout of two nuclear power plants.

Justice Patrick Fischer removed himself from the case on Friday morning, with Justice Judith French following on Friday afternoon

Fischer and French did not state the reason for disqualifying themselves from hearing the case in which FirstEnergy Solutions is suing Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts in a bid to negate its petition effort to place a referendum to repeal House Bill 6 on the November 2020 ballot.

However, Trevor Vessels, who is being sued as a member of the committee behind the ballot effort, managed Republican Fischer’s successful court election campaign in 2016. Comment was being sought from Vessels.

Vessels, president of Capital City Strategies, also managed the 2014 election campaign of French, a Republican who is up for re-election next year.

And, D.J. Eckert, also a member of the anti-House Bill 6 committee, managed the winning 2016 campaign of Republican Justice Patrick DeWine. Eckert declined comment.

DeWine had not filed a recusal notice as of early Friday afternoon.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor appoints judges to take the place of justices who recuse themselves from hearing cases.

Comment was being sought from Fischer, French and DeWine through the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to disqualify themselves “in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

FirstEnergy Solutions, the bankrupt owner of two Lake Erie nuclear power plants, is asking the justices to declare the referendum effort illegal, saying the 85-cent monthly charge to be imposed on most electricity ratepayers in Ohio constitutes a tax that is not subject to referendum.

By Randy Ludlow

The Columbus Dispatch

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