Tyack Tirade Grounds for Recusal?

Is Judge Gary Tyack Trying to Settle An Old Political Score?

Judge Compares GOP Donors To Russian Oligarchs

By Connor Brown


In oral arguments held Thursday in the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) case, Democratic Judge Gary Tyack repeatedly compared GOP donors like Bill Lager and David Brennan to Russian Oligarchs.  According to Columbus Dispatch reporter Jim Siegel, Tyack said that “The General Assembly cares more about what Mr. Lager thinks and what David Brennan thinks than about what I think.”  “In Russian, we call them oligarchs.  Here we call them influential donors,” Tyack said.


The Ohio Revised Code 2701.03 says this about the disqualification of a common pleas judge - affidavit.


(A) If a judge of the court of common pleas allegedly is interested in a proceeding pending before the court, allegedly is related to or has a bias or prejudice for or against a party to a proceeding pending before the court or a party's counsel, or allegedly otherwise is disqualified to preside in a proceeding pending before the court, any party to the proceeding or the party's counsel may file an affidavit of disqualification with the clerk of the supreme court in accordance with division (B) of this section.


(B) An affidavit of disqualification filed under section 2101.39 , 2501.13, 2701.031, or 2743.041 of the Revised Code or division (A) of this section shall be filed with the clerk of the supreme court not less than seven calendar days before the day on which the next hearing in the proceeding is scheduled and shall include all of the following:


(1) The specific allegations on which the claim of interest, bias, prejudice, or disqualification is based and the facts to support each of those allegations or, in relation to an affidavit filed against a judge of a court of appeals, a specific allegation that the judge presided in the lower court in the same proceeding and the facts to support that allegation;


Anyone who thinks Tyack is unbiased raise your hand?


But, research exclusively uncovered today by 3rd Rail Politics indicates that Judge Tyack may be trying to settle an old political score when he criticizes prominent GOP political donors.  Back in 1998, Judge Tyack was the Democratic Nominee for Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.  And for a time, it looked like he may have had a chance against the late Chief Justice Tom Moyer.


But then in swooped the Ohio Republican Party and major donors like David Brennan to save the day.  Brennan and his family contributed $6,000 to the campaign of Chief Justice Moyer, one of his largest sources of funding.  The Brennans then gave another $31,000 to the Ohio Republican Party.  The party then donated a whopping $100,000 to the Moyer re-election effort and spent money on TV too.  


Tyack was humiliated as Moyer was re-elected by a total of over 1.2 million votes statewide.  The margin was Moyer 72.2% while Tyack had just 27.8%.


Just four years later Tyack was humiliated again when he was defeated by GOP newcomer Lisa Sadler for re-election.  So what was his next stop?  The Worthington City School Board.  He even served as Board Chair in 2006 before returning to the Court of Appeals.


But those races against better funded Republicans have been costly.  And that’s even despite the massive support from government employee unions, including charter school opponents, like the Ohio Education Association.  Tyack’s campaign fund is still nearly $24,000 in debt from loans he made to himself.  And because he is now 70 years old, he cannot run again and will never be able to pay himself back.  


Meanwhile, his old opponent, Judge Lisa Sadler was able to easily erase her old campaign debt.  It too was a loan made to herself.

According to the Code of Judicial Conduct, judges have a duty to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in a proceeding.  If they are unable to do this, then they have a duty to recuse themselves from the case. Many judges, including this one, routinely ask hard hitting questions in oral arguments.  But comparing interested parties in litigation to Russian oligarchs certainly seems like it crosses that line of objectivity.


Is it time for Tyack to recuse?