Here are the 2024 primary Ohio Supreme Court candidates

McKenna Christy
March 6, 2024

Ohio voters will determine which Republicans and Democrats will be on the 2024 November general election ballot on the March 19 primary. A race Ohioans may not be as familiar with is the state Supreme Court race of which there will be three races this year. 


The Ohio Supreme Court races have implications for the future rights of Ohioans, according to the Ohio Capital JournalThe Columbus Dispatch reported that the Ohio Supreme Court “will likely decide how the new abortion rights constitutional amendment should be interpreted.” 


Also according to the Ohio Capital Journal, 2022 was the first time Ohio Supreme Court races included party labels after a law was passed to make the court partisan. Democratic Justice Jennifer Brunner filed a lawsuit to overturn the law after she lost the vote for Chief Justice to Republican Sharron Kennedy in 2022, the Ohio Capital Journal reported. 


This year, Republican Justice Joe Deters is challenging Democratic Justice Melody Stewart. Republican Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Dan Hawkins, Democratic 8th District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Forbes, and Democratic 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison are all running for the seat currently held by Deters. Lastly, Republican Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan is challenging incumbent Democratic Justice Michael Donnelly. 


Democrats are seeking control of the Ohio Supreme Court, which is currently controlled by Republicans 4-3. The state’s highest court has been maintained by Republicans for four decades, according to the Columbus Dispatch, and Democrats need to keep two incumbents and win an open seat in November. There have been 163 justices that have served on the Ohio Supreme Court since 1803. Of all the justices, only four have been Black and 13 have been women, according to the Columbus Dispatch. 


Here are short profiles on the incumbent and new candidates running to secure seats in the Ohio Supreme Court.  


Race 1:


Justice Joe Deters 


Republican Justice Joe Deters of Cincinnati was appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court in January 2023 by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine after Justice Sharron Kennedy was voted Chief Justice. Deters was the longest serving prosecutor in Hamilton County before becoming a justice. WOSU Public Media, in an article in 2023, reported that Deters “was the driving force behind Issue 1,” which passed in the November 2022 election with 78% of the votes. Issue 1 is the state constitutional amendment requiring judges to determine bail amounts based on public safety. The amendment also takes away the Ohio Supreme Court’s ability to set bail procedures. 


In March 2023, Deters recused himself from a case over Ohio’s six-week abortion law because he was listed as a party in the lawsuit, according to the Ohio Capital Journal. In February 2023, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Deters told the publication, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, “that he would prosecute any violations of an abortion ban.” Deters was labeled a partisan figure in comments made by University of Dayton Law School Professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister to WOSU Public Media. 


Justice Melody Stewart


Democratic Justice Melody Stewart of Cleveland was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2018. According to Justice Melody J. Stewart for Ohio Supreme Court, Stewart has over 30 years of legal experience “ranging from civil litigation practice and teaching students at several Ohio law schools to being an appellate court judge and sitting by assignment on the Ohio Supreme Court prior to being elected to the Supreme Court.” Stewart, as according to her campaign website, is committed to community service. 


Stewart earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and then went on to receive a law degree from the College of Law at Cleveland State University. Stewart also has a PhD from the Jack, Joseph and Morton School of Applied Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Cleveland State University awarded Stewart an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. 


According to, Stewart told the publication that she does not appreciate a partisan court and “said she’s never decided a case based on party identity.” Stewart also told she “doesn’t exclusively subscribe to any judicial philosophy,” meaning she applies the law situationally instead of relying on a strict process or code. 


Race 2:


Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Dan Hawkins 


Republican Judge Dan Hawkins has served in his current role since 2018. According to, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich appointed Hawkins to a vacant seat on the Franklin County Municipal Court’s environmental division, working on cases of housing, environment, building, health, fire, zoning, sanitation, and animal cruelty. also reported that Hawkins “won praise for shutting down hotels that were havens for drug dealing and prostitution” and that the judge’s campaign said Hawkins created one of the first court-based treatment programs for hoarders seen in the nation.  

Hawkins attended Bowling Green State University and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He then attended The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law where he graduated with a law degree. 


In December 2022, Hawkins wrote a column published in the Columbus Dispatch advocating for Issue 1 regarding bail policy, the same constitutional amendment endorsed by Deters. He wrote that the passage of Issue 1: bail reform was necessary to “restore the common-sense notion that judges should consider public safety when setting the amount of bail in a case.” 


Democratic 8th District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Forbes


Democratic Judge Lisa Forbes of Cleveland ran for her current position in 2020, according to the Columbus Dispatch. In an interview with Forbes, the Columbus Dispatch reported that after receiving a degree from Cornell University, she moved to Washington D.C. Forbes then attended Case Western Reserve University to earn a law degree. Forbes told the Columbus Dispatch that, as a justice, “she wants to make sure the court protects individuals’ rights against government overreach.” 


The Ohio Democratic Party has endorsed Forbes over Jamison for the primary, according to the Columbus Dispatch. However, both Forbes and Jamison are trailing Hawkins in campaign reports and dollars fundraised. According to Ohio Democrats,’s editorial board has also endorsed Forbes for the March election. 


Forbes was a litigator and partner at the Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease law firm until 2020. 


10th District Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison 


Democratic Judge Terri Jamison of Welch, West Virginia, started her career as an underground coal miner, but moved to Columbus after a layoff, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Jamison then worked for businesses while taking classes at Columbus State Community College and then Franklin University, receiving a degree in business, the Columbus Dispatch reported. 


Jamison received her law degree from Capital University Law School and started her own firm. Jamison has been in her current position since 2012, and ran for Ohio Supreme Court in 2022, but lost to Justice Patrick Fischer, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Jamison told the Columbus Dispatch that “reproductive rights, the new marijuana law and restricting are all important issues likely to come before the Ohio Supreme Court.” She also told the publication that she is advocating for the Ohio Sentencing Data Project, which is a state-wide data project that would allow the public to observe and compare sentences of defendants. 


If elected to the Ohio Supreme Court, Jamison would be the third Black woman justice to serve. 


Race 3:


Republican Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan


Republican Judge Megan Shanahan has been in her current position as judge since being appointed in 2015. She won the subsequent election in 2016 to secure a full 6-year term. Shanahan was “overwhelmingly” re-elected in 2022, according to Judge Shanahan for Supreme Court


Shanahan’s campaign website mentions her membership with the Federalist Society, meaning, as a judge, she “understands the proper role of the judiciary – interpreting the law, not legislating from the bench.” Shanahan was also a supporter of Issue 1 regarding bail policy (along with Hawkins and Deters). Shanahan’s campaign website also describes her time as a criminal prosecutor where she “worked hard to give child predators and other criminals sentences they deserve.” 


According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Shanahan worked for Deters when he was Hamilton County Prosecutor. The Cincinnati Enquirer also reported that the Ohio Supreme Court once overturned one of Shanahan’s rulings that would have “allowed a Cincinnati police officer to sue under a pseudonym.” 


Shanahan received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Kent State University and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. 


Justice Michael Donnelly


Democratic Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly of Cleveland is an incumbent candidate, having taken office in 2019. Before becoming a justice, Donnelly served as a judge of Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, General Division, for 14 years. 


According to Donnelly’s campaign website, Donnelly for Justice, he believes that during his time as a justice he has contributed “independence, impartiality, insight, and knowledge” to the bench. Also, according to Donnelly for Justice, the incumbent “rolled back more than $200 million in surcharges Ohio consumers had been forced to pay First Energy.” He was also a key figure in rejecting General Assembly and Congressional districts in their attempts to gerrymander. 


Donnelly received his first degree from John Carroll University and his law degree from Cleveland State University.