In the late 1980s, judicial leaders troubled that Ohio’s courts were getting an unwanted reputation for treating blacks more harshly than whites for similar crimes turned to state lawmakers for help, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The result was a law urging the Ohio Supreme Court to force lower-court judges to track the race, ethnicity, gender, and religion of everyone convicted of a felony to test whether the perceptions were rooted in reality.
Not a single digit of the data has been collected. Despite two reports from state study groups urging implementation of the law, the matter hasn’t seriously been considered in at least five years. Meanwhile, that perception problem – it’s just as bad, some jurists say. The law has been overlooked by the very people elected to uphold it – the judges, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer. Some balked at the extra record-keeping work, while others feared that the data would be used to make them look bad. Moyer was supposed to hand down orders for judges to follow the law but never did. He wishes the data were being collected today but bowed long ago to county judges who vehemently objected. “They can be forced to do it, but the data needs to be reliable,” Moyer said. “And if it is seen as a very low priority by judges, then data is not going to be reliable. It’s not going to be uniform.”