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Chief Justice Defends Drug Courts in ACLU Letter

Image of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor

Image of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor

In response to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report casting doubt on the effectiveness of drug courts, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor sent a letter to the organization disputing the findings, and sent a courtesy copy to Ohio’s judges.

“I would like to address some critical points and perspectives where your report misses the mark,” Chief Justice O’Connor wrote. “I write on behalf of the drug court judges and the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Specialized Dockets staff, who work hard every day on what I consider a rescue mission for Ohioans.”

She said the report’s errors include:

  • A misleading tone that drug courts were created as a venue for the “long arm of the law” instead of as a way to confront a complicated social crisis where incarceration is not the best outcome for defendants and society
  • The ACLU’s use of old data and the lack of a representative sample of the state’s 192 drug courts
  • Miscalculating graduation rates from drug court programs.

“My overarching concern is that the ACLU pursued this report looking for some kind of uniformity in treatment and case disposition,” Chief Justice O’Connor wrote, adding:

“Fairness and equality under the law are paramount in our system. But when it comes to fellow citizens wracked by substance abuse disorder, fairness means understanding their individual circumstances, and equality means having judges” and community aid professionals evaluate each drug court participant “with compassion and impartiality.”