Gov. Mike DeWine to appoint Joseph Deters to Ohio Supreme Court

Never been a judge but is friends with DeWine
Jon Deters.jpg
Posted at 2:31 PM, Dec 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-22 19:28:43-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is appointing Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters, who has never been a judge but is good friends with the governor's family, to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Deters, the 65-year-old attorney will join the court — making a 4-3 majority of conservatives. This means that the former independent voice of Maureen O’Connor will just be a memory.

In 2023, justices will hear cases on redistricting, abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. It is highly likely that Deters will side with the GOP on the legislative and congressional maps.

"I think what we need on the Supreme Court is people who are constitutional conservatives," DeWine said during a press conference Thursday.

The attorney has a long history in politics.

Deters has been the prosecutor in Hamilton County for a combined total of around 25 years. He served from 1992-1999 and then from 2005 to the present. He is known for being tough on crime.

He has also served as that county's clerk of courts and been the Ohio State treasurer twice. As treasurer, he was "responsible for collecting, managing and investing more than $11 billion in assets for the State of Ohio," according to DeWine's Office.

But there is one unique way that he is very clearly different from the other sitting justices.

"You are appointing somebody to the Supreme Court who has no judicial experience and who is a friend of the family. Can you walk me through that decision-making process?" News 5 Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau asked the governor.

"Sure," DeWine said. "I chose Joe Deters because I know him, I trust him."

The administration interviewed a number of "very highly qualified individuals," and Deters was the choice, the governor added.

"He is someone who has been a prosecuting attorney for a number of decades, has handled all kinds of cases, has tried cases himself," he said. "The idea that everybody who's on the Supreme Court has to all be the same as far as their experience, I think is a real mistake."

Deters has significant "real-world experience" in the criminal justice system, he continued.

"Joe Deters has a wealth of experience in all of those areas, I think he brings unique talent to the Ohio Supreme Court, and I'm very, very proud to nominate him," the governor said. "He will do an excellent, an excellent job."

"A wealth of experience — just not being a judge," Trau responded.

"First of all, if you go back in history and look at the United States Supreme Court, some of our most famous jurists were never judges," DeWine responded. "The idea that you have to be a judge to be on the Ohio Supreme Court, it certainly is not written anywhere, nor does common sense indicate that that should be a qualification."

More information on who Deters is and his relationship with the DeWine family will be delved into in the coming weeks.

Deters called DeWine's decision to have him serve on the state's highest court "an honor."

“It is the honor of a lifetime to accept this appointment to the Ohio Supreme Court,” said Deters. “I have spent my entire career standing up for victims and protecting the rights of criminal defendants. I appreciate the trust and responsibility that comes with this appointment and look forward to working with my colleagues on the Supreme Court to ensure Ohio’s justice system protects the rights of all Ohioans.”

Deters graduated from St. Xavier High School in 1975, the University of Cincinnati in 1979 and the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1982.

Deters will be sworn in on Jan. 7. He will fill the unexpired term of Justice Sharon Kennedy.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.