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Susan Dlott

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Susan Dlott
Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
Title:   Chief Judge
Position:   Seat #4
Appointed by:   Bill Clinton
Active:   12/26/1995-Present
Chief:   2009-2014
Preceded by:   Arthur Spiegel
Personal History
Born:   1949
Hometown:   Dayton, OH
Undergraduate:   University of Pennsylvania, 1970
Law School:   Boston University School of Law, 1973

Susan J. Dlott is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. She joined the court in 1995, after being nominated by President Bill Clinton, and served as chief judge from 2009 until 2015.[1]


A native of Ohio, Dlott graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970 with her bachelor's degree and later graduated from the Boston University School of Law in 1973 with her Juris Doctor.[2]

Professional career

After graduation from law school, Dlott clerked for appeals judges Jack Day and Alvin Krenzler in the Ohio Court of Appeals in Cleveland from 1973 to 1975. From 1975 to 1979, Dlott served in the Southern District of Ohio as an Assistant United States Attorney involving both civil and criminal litigation. In 1979, Dlott entered into private practice with the Cincinnati law firm of Graydon, Head & Ritchey and in 1981 became the firm's first female partner. During her sixteen-year tenure with the firm Judge Dlott litigated on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants in several high-profile cases. Dlott garnered an acquittal for one client in the longest criminal trial ever in Hamilton County and was court appointed lead counsel in a fifty nine defendant securities fraud case, and was court-appointed lead counsel for a subclass of plaintiffs in Bendectin litigation as a testament to her legal work specializing in both civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense.[3]

Judicial career

Southern District of Ohio

On the recommendation of Senator John Glenn, Dlott was nominated by President Bill Clinton on August 10, 1995, to a seat vacated by Arthur Spiegel as Spiegel went on senior status. Dlott was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 22, 1995, on a voice vote and received commission on December 26, 1995.[2]

Notable cases

Constitutionality of non-partisan general elections upheld (2014)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
In Ohio, judicial candidates must first win a party primary to appear on the general election ballot. When they do, however, their party affiliation does not appear next to their name on the November ballot. And, it appears this unique system will continue now that a federal judge has ruled that the United States Constitution does not forbid it.[4]

U.S. District Judge Dlott of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled against a challenge brought by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Ohio Democratic Party and others. The challengers argued that not identifying candidates by their party in the general election violated their First Amendment freedom of expression. Supporters of the current system countered that there is ample information available to voters who are interested in learning about the candidates, including their party affiliation.[5]

In her ruling, Dlott questioned whether the system was “good public policy,” and even suggested that “Ohio’s… approach serves neither interest particularly well,” but nonetheless concluded that “the state has broad power to prescribe the manner of elections…”[4]

The debate largely fell along party lines, with Republicans generally favoring the non-partisan system and Democrats arguing for party affiliation on the general election ballot. Unions and the Democratic Party note that there is typically a large drop-off between the number of people who vote in the general election and the number of votes cast for judicial candidates, and that identifying candidates by party would boost voter participation in judicial races.[4] Republicans insist that name recognition is the most important factor when voting, not party affiliation, and that it’s up to the party to communicate its message to voters.[5]

Party labels on judicial ballots in OH (2010)

     United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Ohio Council 8 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, et al., v. Jennifer Brunner, et al., 1:10-cv-00504)

On July 28, 2010, a group of plaintiffs comprised of the Ohio Democratic Party, a labor union, and judicial candidates brought suit against Ohio in an attempt to have the election ballots amended for that year's general election. The suit challenged Ohio rules which allow partisan primary elections with labels on the ballots next to the names of judicial candidates, but prohibits the same political party labels from appearing during the general elections. Dlott ruled that these laws did not amount to a severe restriction of candidates' speech, and that therefore there was no violation of their free speech rights under the First Amendment. The challenge was rejected and Ohio's system remained in place.[6]

The full case docket may be found here.

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Arthur Spiegel
Southern District of Ohio
Seat #4
Succeeded by:

OhioOhio Supreme CourtOhio District Courts of AppealOhio Courts of Common PleasOhio County CourtsOhio Municipal CourtsOhio Court of ClaimsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of OhioUnited States District Court for the Southern District of OhioUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of OhioUnited States bankruptcy court, Southern District of OhioUnited States Court of Appeals for the Sixth CircuitOhio countiesOhio judicial newsOhio judicial electionsJudicial selection in OhioOhioTemplate.jpg