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Justice Pat DeWine Recuses Himself From ECOT Case After Arguments

Patrick DeWine

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine has stepped aside from a hot-button case over how Ohio calculated funding for ECOT, once the state’s largest online charter school.

DeWine filed his recusal in the case of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, five months after it was argued. The justice – who is the son of Ohio Attorney General and Republican governor candidate Mike DeWine – didn’t state a reason for recusing himself and wasn't required to.

ECOT was fighting a decision by the Ohio Department of Education to claw back millions of dollars in funding for students it said couldn’t be verified as attending classes. The state said ECOT could only verify about 40 percent of the full-time students they said they had.

The school closed in January after its sponsor voted to suspend the charter, leaving thousands of students and hundreds of faculty and staff without a school.

The unusual move likely means six others who heard the case will either just decide it or reargue it. A court spokesman declined comment Monday on the impact of DeWine's decision.

DeWine was one of three Republican justices who received contributions from ECOT founder Bill Lager. Justice Judith French recused herself last year and was replaced by Democratic Judge W. Scott Gwin from the Canton-based Fifth District Court of Appeals. Justice Terence O’Donnell also received contributions from Lager, but did not recuse himself.

A report from Ohio Auditor Dave Yost found that ECOT withheld student data and submitted misleading information to the state, and referred the case to prosecutors. Mike DeWine appointed an outside counsel to handle the state’s lawsuit against ECOT.

Both Yost and Mike DeWine have received contributions from Lager in the past, although both donated the money to charity following the state audit.