April 15, 2011
Supreme Court Justice Francis Sweeney Dies
Former Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Francis Edward Sweeney Sr., 77, author of the first DeRolph v. State school funding decision, died last Sunday.
Justice Sweeney served two terms on the Supreme Court from 1993 to 2004. Perhaps his most significant contribution while a member of the Court was his majority opinion in DeRolph v. State (1997). Justice Sweeney’s opinion described the conditions many students in Ohio’s poorest school districts endured to receive an education.
The Supreme Court ruled that Ohio’s system of school funding was unconstitutional and, as a result of this decision, the Ohio General Assembly established the Ohio School Facilities Commission in 1997. From 1997 to 2004, more than $3.5 billion was spent to build or renovate 293 school buildings in 124 school districts.
Justice Sweeney was born Jan. 24, 1934, in Cuyahoga County. From 1988 to 1992, he served on the appellate court. He was elected to the Supreme Court in 1992 and re-elected in 1998. Due to the mandatory retirement age of 70, he could not seek re-election in 2004. Until last year he continued to serve on the bench as a retired assigned judge in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court where he presided over asbestos cases.