COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio Supreme Court Justice Joe Deters is recusing himself from presiding over the state’s racketeering lawsuit against players embattled in its largest public corruption scandal.
The newly-appointed Justice on Tuesday filed a notice of recusal from Attorney General Dave Yost’s civil lawsuit against parties associated with a $60 million bribery scandal that culminated in a $1.3 billion bailout of Akron-based FirstEnergy’s nuclear power plants by way of House Bill 6, the resignation of Ohio’s top utility regulator and a federal jury conviction of two of the state’s largest political operatives.
An Ohio Supreme Court spokesperson said Deters was not immediately available Wednesday morning to comment on his recusal.
Deters, who was appointed to the bench by Gov. Mike DeWine in December, previously worked with a central figure in the $60 million pay-to-play scheme who is named as a defendant in Yost’s lawsuit: Matt Borges, the former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, who, alongside the ousted House Speaker Larry Householder, was convicted on federal racketeering charges in March. The two are scheduled to be sentenced in June, where they each face up to 20 years in prison.
From 1999 to 2004, Deters served as Ohio Treasurer — with Borges as his chief of staff.
According to media reports at the time, Borges pleaded guilty in July 2004 to a misdemeanor charge of misusing the public office by giving preferential treatment to — and funneling campaign contributions to Deters — from donors seeking to do business with the treasurer’s office. Deters was never charged.
Deters’ brother, Dennis P. Deters, also serves as a member of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The Commission’s former Chairman Sam Randazzo — who resigned from the post in 2020 after an FBI raid of his Columbus home — is named as a defendant in Yost’s racketeering lawsuit and accused of accepting a $4.3 million bribe from FirstEnergy to help facilitate the nuclear bailout.
Dennis Deters, who has not been charged or implicated in the scandal, was appointed to the Commission by DeWine in 2019 and reappointed to a second term in 2021.
In his lawsuit, Yost accuses FirstEnergy, Borges, Householder, Randazzo, dark money groups and other HB 6 players of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and requests an undisclosed amount of monetary damages.
The Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case on June 28, according to the docket. Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy will appoint a court of appeals judge to preside over the case in Deters’ absence.
Deters also recused himself in January from a case involving the state’s six-week abortion ban, because he — in his former role as the Hamilton County prosecutor — is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.