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Category Archive for 'Cases to Watch'

The City of Akron filed a lawsuit in order to stop recent traffic camera legislation from going into effect.  SB 342 requires that a police officer be present when a traffic camera is in operation, making traffic cameras economically infeasible for most cities.  The new law also creates procedural requirements and states that motorists can only receive traffic camera tickets if they are going at least 6 miles over the speed limit in a school zone or park and at least 10 miles over the speed limit in other locations.  The City seeks an injunction to prevent SB 342 from going into effect March 23, 2015.

In its complaint, Akron asserts that the statute violates the Home Rule provision of the Ohio Constitution.  The other plaintiff in the suit, American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS), claims the legislation violates constitutional provisions against laws impairing the obligation of contracts, U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 10, clause 1 and Ohio Constitution Article II, Section 28.   Akron and other Ohio cities are currently under contract with ATS to administer and operate photo enforcement programs.

See Cleveland.com Akron sues to stop Ohio’s new traffic-camera law

A brief was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Ohio petitioners seeking recognition in Ohio of their valid out-of-state same-sex marriages.  The petitioners contend that the State of Ohio must list them as parents on their children’s birth certificates and recognize the spouse on death certificates if one partner dies.  Petitioners argue that Ohio‘s recognition bans set forth in the Ohio Constitution violate the Fourteenth Amendment for all the reasons the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA as unconstitutional in Windsor. Additionally, the marriage recognition bans should be subject to heightened scrutiny under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses.  Even without heightened scrutiny, Ohio’s marriage recognition bans do not pass constitutional muster under any standard of review, the petitioners argue.

Petitioner’s Brief in Obergefell v. Hodges, U.S. Supreme Court Case No. 14-566

See Ohio ACLU Press Release

See our prior post  U.S. Supreme Court to Review Ohio Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Even with the Ohio Statute prohibiting traffic cameras without a police officer present ( SB 342) and the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling finding administrative appeals of traffic camera tickets constitutional (Walker v. City of Toledo, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-5461. ), there is still plenty of litigation around concerning traffic cameras.  For example, in Butler County, there is a class action case pending alleging that the Village of New Miami traffic cameras violated due process rights under the Ohio Constitution.  See Barrow v. Village of New Miami, Butler County Case No. CV 2013 07 2047.

Class action certification was granted by the trial court and this decision was appealed to the Twelfth District Court of Appeals.  The Twelfth District remanded the case back to the trial court, finding that the trial court needed to articulate its reasons for granting class certification.   The trial court, Judge Michael Sage, did so – see Entry on Remand Reaffirming Reasons for Decision Granting Class Certification. 

The Village of New Miami asked the Twelfth District to reconsider its ruling on the class action issue, arguing that because of the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling in Walker v. City of Toledo, the plaintiffs did not have standing.  None of the plaintiffs went through the administrative appeals process, and the Walker decision said that administrative hearings must be exhausted before judicial remedies can be pursued.  The Twelfth District denied the motion for reconsideration, finding that Walker does not change the ability of the plaintiffs to bring a facial constitutional challenge without bringing an administrative appeal.  See Notice to Court Regarding Denial of Court of Appeals.

However, the Village of New Miami asserts that the trial court should grant its Motion for Relief from Judgment, because Walker voided the plaintiffs’ central due process claim – that the administrative hearing deprived them of the right to have their claims heard under the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Evidence and Ohio Traffic Rules.  Judge Michael Oster has taken over the Butler County case, as Judge Michael Sage has retired, so the ruling on New Miami’s motion will be up to him.  See Dayton Daily News:  Appeals court refuses to reconsider New Miami speed camera case.    So, it remains to be seen whether even a walker can kill traffic camera litigation (a small joke for Walking Dead fans).

In addition to litigation dealing with traffic camera tickets already issued, such as the New Miami case, look for future litigation by municipalities challenging the constitutionality of SB 342. The  Legislative Service Commission Analysis of this bill (as passed by the Senate) states:

“It is unclear if the provisions of the bill infringe upon a municipal corporation’s home rule authority under Article XVIII, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution. See Canton v. State, 95 Ohio St.3d 149 (2002).”
Update (3/17/2015):  Judge Oster denied New Miami’s Motion for Relief from Judgment.  New Miami appealed the trial court’s Entry on Remand Reaffirming and Explaining Reasons for Decision Granting Class Certification.

In State v. Brown, 6th Dist. No. WD-12-070, 2013-Ohio-5351, the Sixth District Court of Appeals found that evidence obtained from a traffic stop outside the officer’s jurisdiction had to be excluded pursuant to Art. I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution, which prohibits unlawful searches and seizures.  The search and seizure did not violate the U.S. Constitution, because the officer had probable cause to stop the defendant, namely, she observed defendant’s tires go outside of the marked lane.  A violation of a state statute (ie. the police stopping someone outside their jurisdiction, R.C. 4513.39) does not, without a constitutional violation, invoke the exclusionary rule under the U.S. Constitution.

However, the Ohio Constitution can afford more rights to a defendant than the U.S. Constitution.  The Sixth District stated the standard under the Ohio Constitution as follows:

…a stop made in violation of state law is reasonable under Article I, Section 14, of the Ohio Constitution only when probable cause to make the stop exists and the government’s interests in allowing unauthorized officers to make this type of stop outweighs the intrusion upon individual privacy.

(citing State v. Brown, 99 Ohio St.3d 323, 2003-Ohio-3931, 792 N.E.2d 175)

In this case, the township officer stopped the defendant on an interstate highway, which was in the exclusive jurisdiction of the state highway patrol, sheriffs, and sheriff deputies.  No extenuating circumstances existed which would justify the extraterritorial stop.  The Sixth District distinguished cases such as City of Kettering v. Hollen, 64 Ohio St.2d 232, 235, 416 N.E.2d 598 (1980), where the officer observed a traffic offense in his jurisdiction and was in hot pursuit.  Under the facts of Hollen, it is reasonable to find that the government’s interests in allowing unauthorized officers to make this type of stop outweighs the intrusion upon individual privacy.

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral argument in this case today. See Oral Argument Summary.   Attorneys for the State argue that the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions have virtually identical language, so both should be read to have the same standards.  The case is  State of Ohio v. Terrence Brown, Ohio Supreme Court Case no. 2014-0104.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear cases upholding bans in four states on same-sex marriages and  recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.   The four states involved are Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.   The Court accepted two issues for review:

1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

See ACLU of Ohio, Supreme Court Will Hear Four Cases Challenging Ban on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples, Including Ohio’s.  The Supreme Court could decide to overturn the Ohio Constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage entirely, or at least require Ohio to recognize marriages valid in other states.  Ohio voters approved amending the Ohio Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in 2004.

The Supreme Court will review DeBoer v. Snyder.   a federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that overturned two cases from federal district courts in the Southern District of Ohio, as well as cases from federal district courts in Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky.   The Ohio District Court decisions held that the failure to recognize same sex marriages valid in other states violates due process and/or equal protection rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution. See our prior post on the Deboer decision.

For more information on the U.S. Supreme Court case, check out the SCOTUS blog’s Information Page about DeBoer v. Snyder. 

Texas Eastern Transmission, a private Texas pipeline corporation, moved for immediate possession of land in Belmont County,  Ohio, based upon federal approval of a pipeline route.  See Texas Eastern Transmission, LP v. 3.2 Acres Permanent Easement and 4. Acres Temporary Easement of Land in Colerain Township, Belmont County, Ohio, S.D. Ohio, Case No. 2:14-cv-02650, MOTION for Temporary Restraining Order FOR IMMEDIATE POSSESSION by Plaintiff Texas Eastern Transmission, LP.  Property Owners, represented by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, argue that the Ohio Constitution prevents such “quick takings”, because Ohio Constitution Section I, Article 19 requires compensation for eminent domain takings, the amount to be determined by a jury.  Furthermore, they argue that the Ohio Constitution’s prohibitions against quick takings are not preempted by Federal law, including the Natural Gas Act or Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1.  See Landowner’s Memo in Opposition.

See Akron Beacon Journal, Belmont County family fight pipeline’s use of eminent domain.

Also see this post by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

In Bass Energy, Inc. v. City of Broadview Heights, Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court Case no. CV-14-828074, two oil and gas companies sued the City of Broadview Heights, seeking a declaratory judgment to declare the city’s ban on drilling invalid. The City claims the ban is protected by the Home Rule provision of the Ohio Constitution, while the companies claim the city’s ban is preempted by state law.

A similar case is pending in the Ohio Supreme Court, State of Ohio ex rel. Jack Morrison, Jr., Law Director City of Munroe Falls, Ohio, et al. v. Beck Energy Corporation, et al., Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2013-0465. See our prior post Does Sole Authority of Ohio Department of Natural Resources to Regulate Oil and Gas Drilling Violate Home Rule? The Munroe Falls case involves the energy company’s violation of city zoning ordinances, street and right of way ordinances, as well as ordinances specific to oil and gas, such as a notice of drilling  requirement.  The Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Munroe Falls case on February 26, 2014.  A decision is expected shortly.

Court docket in Bass Energy (with links to full text filings)

See Midwest Energy News:  Ohio Town, Seeking to Limit Drilling, is Latest at Odds with State

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on January 14, 2015 on whether Cleveland’s 2% municipal income tax on professional sports players from visiting teams violates the player’s Equal Protection rights under the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions.  See Hillenmeyer v. City of Cleveland Board of Review, Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2014-0285.  The City of Cleveland asserts, among other arguments, that the tax is proper and the Ohio Constitution’s home rule provision gives the City the right to impose the tax.

The Ohio Attorney General’s amicus brief argues that the tax does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. or Ohio Constitution.  Four major league player’s unions, representing football, basketball, baseball and hockey, each filed amicus briefs in the case.

Oral arguments can be viewed  live on the Ohio Supreme Court’s homepage.

Also see Cleveland.com article Former NFL players’ jock tax lawsuits will be heard by Ohio Supreme Court in January

The Ohio Supreme Court agreed to hear  an appeal of the Second District’s decision in  Haight v. Cheap Escape Co., 2014-Ohio-2447. This case held that by adopting the language of Article II, Section 34a of the Ohio Constitution, Ohio voters intended to abolish the minimum wage exemptions contained in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act for purposes of the Ohio minimum wage.  Under the Haight decision, Ohio employers must pay the minimum wage to  outside sales people and others who are exempt from the federal minimum wage laws.

See the docket and filings in Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2014-1241.

See our prior post: Appellate Ruling: Outside Salespeople are Employees under Constitution’s Minimum Wage Provision

In Haight v. Cheap Escape Co., 2014-Ohio-2447, the Ohio Second District Court of Appeals held that outside salespeople paid on commission were employees as defined by Article II, Section 34a of the Ohio Constitution.  This section states:

As used in this section: “employer,” “employee,” “employ,” “person” and “independent contractor” have the same meanings as under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act …

The Fair Labor Standard Act, 29 U.S.C. 203, defines an “employee” as “any individual employed by an employer”, with some exceptions that do not apply here.

An Ohio statute, RC 4111.14(B)(1), stated:

“Employee” means individuals employed in Ohio, but does not mean individuals who are excluded from the definition of “employee” under 29 U.S.C. 203(e) [the Fair Labor Standards Act] or individuals who are exempted from the minimum wage requirements in 29 U.S.C. 213 and from the definition of “employee” in this chapter.

Outside salespeople are exempt from minimum wage under 29 U.S.C. 213.

The Second District held that the Ohio Statute violates the Ohio Constitution by narrowing the definition of employee.  Article II, Section 34a of the Ohio Constitution states:

Laws may be passed to implement its provisions and create additional remedies, increase the minimum wage rate and extend the coverage of the section, but in no manner restricting any provision of the section or the power of municipalities under Article XVIII of this constitution with respect to the same.

See Porter Wright Employer Law Report: Appellate Court throws exemptions to minimum wage laws in Ohio out the window

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