Issue 1 is a proposed Constitutional amendment currently before the electorate, not the Clinton County Common Pleas Court.
Judges typically provide opinions only on matters before their court. Sometimes, judges are permitted to express opinions on matters that affect their court.
Because Issue 1, if passed, will dramatically affect the criminal justice system and create chaos in Clinton County courts, it is important I voice my opposition to this proposal.
I understand the frustration with those seeking criminal justice reform.
For two years, I periodically traveled to Columbus as part of a 23-member committee charged with revamping the entire criminal law code in Ohio. It was a daunting task and hard work.
I specifically worked on revamping the drug laws in the state. Our group researched not only how other states handle drug possession cases but other countries.
In mid-2017, the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee presented its comprehensive proposal to the General Assembly. No action was taken by the Legislature.
Issue 1 represents an understandable response to the inaction of the Ohio Legislature. But amending the Ohio Constitution is not the proper vehicle to address this complex problem.
I support many of the goals contained in Issue 1. But if passed, unintended consequences will result which would not address the concerns I have in treating substance use disorders as health issues that need to be treated.
The You-Turn Recovery Drug Court, which is successfully addressing the problem locally, would be a footnote in history.
Reform is needed; too many low-level offenders charged with possession of a small amount of drugs end up behind bars with a felony on their record. Felonies have a way of following an offender around long after the criminal case is completed.
While the proposals we presented on reforming the drug laws did not go as far as I would have hoped, it was a start.
And I am optimistic that after this flawed proposal is rejected by the electorate, the General Assembly will get the message and adopt the recommendations of the Recodification Committee.
Vote no on Issue 1.
John W. “Tim” Rudduck is Judge of the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas.