Republican Appeals Court Judge Assigned to Preside over Ohio Abortion Law Injunction

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy assigned Matthew Byrne, a Twelfth District Court of Appeals judge, this week to preside over a state appeal of a preliminary injunction on Ohio’s abortion law.

Byrne takes over for newly appointed Ohio Justice Joe Deters, who recused himself after the abortion clinic plaintiffs argued that he couldn’t rule on the state’s heartbeat bill ban because he was an original defendant on the case when serving as Hamilton County Prosecutor.

The appeals case is a result of a lawsuit filed in September in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court by Planned Parenthood and Ohio abortion facilities, in which they contested Ohio’s Heartbeat Law, Senate Bill (SB) 23 passed in 2019, which went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. Hamilton County Judge Christian Jenkins issued the preliminary injunction in October, putting the Heartbeat Law on hold until a trial.

The Heartbeat Law prohibits abortion if an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat.

The state appealed the preliminary injunction to Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals through Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Because the injunction was only preliminary and not permanent, the appeal court questioned whether it had the authority to decide.

According to the appellate court’s decision, the injunction was appealed prematurely because the trial court’s case was not yet concluded.

The appellate court’s decision would have sent the matter back to the trial court, but Yost then appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.

“If allowed to stand, the First District’s ruling will leave the state with no way to protect legislation from egregiously wrong preliminary injunctions. Trial courts that issue such injunctions have every incentive to drag out lower-court proceedings, ensuring their orders remain in effect and that state laws with which they disagree remain unenforceable for as long as possible,” Yost’s brief says.

Ohioans elected Byrne in 2020, and his term on the five-judge Ohio Twelfth District Court of Appeals, located in Middletown and serving the counties of Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Fayette, Madison, Preble, and Warren, officially began on January 1, 2021.

The Ohio Twelfth District Court of Appeals was Byrne’s first elected position. However, Byrne practiced law for more than 10 years before being chosen to serve on the appellate court.

On his campaign website, Byrne lists his affiliation with a pro-life pregnancy help organization and portrays himself as a conservative Warren County Republican. Byrne refers to himself as a “conservative constitutional originalist and textualist. ”

According to the Constitution Center, judges who aspire to be originalists strive to interpret the Constitution as written rather than as a dynamic text that changes through time in response to society. Textualists aim to read laws and the constitution in their plain meaning and take into account what the words and phrases meant at the time of adoption.

The Ohio Supreme Court’s political views have altered in the new year. Former Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican who occasionally sided with Democrats in close votes, resigned from the court on December 31st. Kennedy won the election to succeed O’Connor over Democratic Justice Jennifer Brunner. There are four Republican judges and three Democratic judges on the new court.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Sharon Kennedy” by Ohio Supreme Court. Background Photo “Ultrasound Appointment” by MART PRODUCTION.


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