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On August 11, 1993, the Ohio Supreme Court handed down its decision in Arnold v. Cleveland. The Court held that the Ohio Constitution confers a fundamental individual right to bear arms—nearly 15 years before the United States Supreme Court enunciated a similar right guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Perhaps even more consequentially, the Arnold court declared that “[t]he Ohio Constitution is a document of independent force.” This assertion about the fundamental nature of the state constitution, and the willingness of the Court to engage with and interpret the document on its own terms, breathed new life into Ohio’s otherwise moribund state constitutional jurisprudence. While the Court’s declaration regarding the independent force of the state constitution may be a truism for students of the American political system, the implications of Arnold were—and remain—radical. Arnold has become the Court’s go-to citation for the assertion of Ohio’s constitutional independence, or the exercise of “judicial federalism.”


Nathaniel M. Fouch: J.D., University of St. Thomas School of Law; B.A. Berea College; Judicial Law Clerk to Justice R. Patrick DeWine of the Supreme Court of Ohio and Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Sinclair Community College.

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