By Jim Siegel
Enquirer Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS - On a recent spring afternoon, hundreds of students, teachers and education advocates gathered on the Statehouse lawn for another protest of the state's unconstitutional school funding system.
One gentleman handed out brown business cards from Ohioans for Educational Justice. It listed the group's endorsed Supreme Court candidates.
Three first three names - Democrat, Democrat, Democrat - offered no surprises.
Then there was a fourth name: Justice Paul Pfeifer.
"I'm far from embarrassed by (that)," said Pfeifer, a Republican from Crawford County, when told of the card. "I'm happy about it."
Pfeifer has been endorsed by labor unions and scorned by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, a traditional cornerstone of Republican support. His votes to strike down school funding, lawsuit reform, and workers compensation reform have angered GOP-controlled legislatures and frustrated two Republican governors.
And while some in his own party's leadership voted against endorsing him, no Republicans stepped up to challenge Pfeifer, 61. This year Democrats didn't even bother to field a candidate, meaning that of the four high-court seats up for election, only Pfeifer is unopposed.
Democrats don't agree with him a majority of the time, said Dan Trevas, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party. But they like him well enough.
"On key issues that have been important to a majority of Ohioans interested in the court, Justice Pfeifer takes sides on the issues we agree on," he said.
While he may not be his party's favorite Republican, Pfeifer says he still gets warm receptions at picnics and other GOP events around the state. And you won't hear him apologize for his rulings.
"In this job, we're supposed to call 'em like we see 'em," he said. "My job is to be as fair and impartial and independent as possible."
Running unopposed means Pfeifer will avoid debate over the top issue in these Supreme Court races: tort reform. The legislature has already passed jury award limits on medical malpractice and asbestos cases, and is preparing broader reforms later this year.
The medical community and business leaders are pushing hard for a court that will uphold these new laws, while trial lawyers want them struck down as unconstitutional.
Pfeifer, who in 1999 ruled that caps on jury awards were unconstitutional, says the national tort reform effort is the work of some "exceedingly wealthy and powerful folks in New York and Washington D.C."
"Any system that handles injury and accident claims is not perfect," he said. "But this is hardly a nuanced approach. It's a meat cleaver."
TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Events revive as boycott wanes
Where boycott succeeded, and where it failed
Boycott leaders: Where they are today
Crowds gathered early for downtown activities
It's red ribbon day for AIDS walk
More families choosing cremation
Images of cremation evoke Holocaust memories for Jews
Sewage plant fights to expand
Alabaman wins Miss America
Nude runner leads to robbery arrest
Weary, flood-soaked Ohioans wring hands and belongings
Man electrocuted at bakery plant
Local news briefs
New program helps youth build future
Florence, Boone disagree on how to use funds
Donations bolster drug strike force
NKU sinks hook into revitalizing area near lake
Covington scooter law advancing
Loveland sewer expansion moves ahead despite spat
Ludlow forum to take up pit bulls
Subdivision pitches in
Northern Kentucky news briefs
One-party rule makes for ballot unevenness
Voinovich praises progress of joint breast cancer work
He calls 'em as he sees 'em
Portman vows not to take it easy
Canton mayor, GOP send mixed signals
Here's how and where to register to vote
School dress codes wear thin
Schools tie for Merit honors
Teachers set to picket
Room and board at Miami rising 8.5%
West Clermont schools part of TV show
Traffic signal flap eases
Liberty Township gets contract Post Office
Bronson: Jazz sax man was reflection of our spirit
Crowley: Lucas gives emotional, blunt review
Howard: Seventh-grader rises in national science contest
B.E. Bruning a repairman and gardener
Viola Heath had owned beauty salon