The Ohio Supreme Court has seen an apparent increase in harsh dissents from the Justices.
The sharp words come from dissenting opinions of justices who disagree with the ruling arrived at by the majority on the seven-member court.
Most of these critiques start out pretty much the same: “I respectfully dissent …” But the dissenting opinions have included especially pointed language in several recent high-profile rulings.
Perhaps Justice Pfeiffer summed up the change: “If I offend colleagues from time to time, you’re never going to hear me say I’m sorry. It goes with the territory.”
The cases highlighted include Pauley v. Circleville, Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-4541. That case involved injuries sustained by a chile while sledding in a city park. Justice O’Neill dissented by suggesting that the city had created a “perfect killing field” by dumping debris in the park.
Another case was Freshwater v. Mt. Vernon City School Dist. Bd. of Edn., Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-5000. That case involved the firing of a teacher in a dispute about religious teaching in school. Justice Pfeiffer in his dissent was sarcastically critical not only of the majority opinion, but also the plaintiffs and the lawyers.
My view: strong dissents have a long tradition in the law. And they help non-lawyers understand the stakes in important cases that often turn on difficult and technical points of law.