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Category Archive for 'Ohio Supreme Court Decisions'

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on July 26, 2017 that three provisions of a 2015 state law regulating the use of traffic cameras were unconstitutional. Justice Fischer wrote the majority opinion in Dayton v. State, holding that:

R.C. 4511.093(B)(1), which requires that a law-enforcement officer be present at the location of a traffic camera, infringes on the municipality’s legislative authority without serving an overriding state interest and is therefore unconstitutional. We also hold that R.C. 4511.0912, which prohibits the municipality from issuing a fine to a driver who is caught speeding by a traffic camera unless that driver’s speed exceeds the posted speed limit by 6 m.p.h. in a school or park zone or 10 m.p.h. in other areas, unconstitutionally limits the municipality’s legislative powers without serving an overriding state interest. Finally, we hold that R.C. 4511.095, which directs the municipality to perform a safety study and a public-information campaign prior to using a camera, unconstitutionally limits the municipality’s home-rule authority without serving an overriding state interest.”

Justice Fischer’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice O’Connor and Judge Baldwin of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, sitting for Justice O’Donnell. Justice French wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Kennedy. Justice French found the state laws unconstitutional on the ground that they “fail to prescribe a rule of conduct upon citizens generally,” and thus violate the Home Rule Amendment (Art. XVIII, Sec. 3).

Under Article XVIII, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution, municipalities have authority to exercise powers of local self-government. They also have authority to adopt and enforce police regulations, as long as those regulations do not conflict with state laws. The Court uses a three-part test to examine potential conflicts between local ordinances and state law. The local ordinance must yield to a state statute if “(1) the ordinance is an exercise of the police power, rather than of local self-government, (2) the statute is a general law, and (3) the ordinance is in conflict with the statute.”

Dayton permitted its police department to begin using traffic cameras in 2002. When the state law passed in 2015, Dayton challenged the provisions that conflicted with its existing local ordinances. The parties agreed that the state laws and local ordinances conflicted, and the Court determined that Dayton’s laws were an exercise of police power. Thus the remaining part of the test stated above, and the issue in this case, was whether the challenged provisions of the state law were general laws.

Justice Fischer and Justice French both used a four-part test from Canton v. State, a 2002 Ohio Supreme Court decision, to determine whether the challenged provisions were general laws. Under this test, to qualify as a general law, a statute must “(1) be part of a statewide and comprehensive legislative enactment, (2) apply to all parts of the state alike and operate uniformly throughout the state, (3) set forth police, sanitary, or similar regulations, rather than purport only to grant or limit legislative power of a municipal corporation to set forth police, sanitary, or similar regulations, and (4) prescribe a rule of conduct upon citizens generally.” When this general-law test is not satisfied, then the statute is deemed an unconstitutional limitation on the municipality’s legislative home-rule authority.

The majority opinion focused on the third prong, and determined that the provision requiring the presence of an officer contradicted the purpose of using the cameras; that the speed-leeway provision acted as an increase in speed limit, violating the city’s legislative power; that the study and notice provision does not actually require use of the study and would not succeed in notifying all potential motorists. The concurring opinion focused on the fourth prong and noted that the challenged provisions do not apply to citizens’ conduct in driving, but rather places limitations on municipalities.

Justices DeWine and O’Neill wrote separate dissenting opinions, both challenging the validity of the Canton test and pointing out that the 2015 law promotes uniform application of traffic laws around the state. Justice DeWine wrote that the Canton test is applied unevenly and does not provide sufficient guidance for the legislature. Additionally, to determine whether a state legislative enactment is a general law, the reviewing court should instead examine whether the statute has statewide reach and whether it treats the objects of the law equally.

The Court Decisions page of the Ohio Constitution: Law and History guide has been updated with the final cases of 2016 that interpreted constitutional issues.

On December 22, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court examined the constitutionality of state statutes requiring the mandatory transfer of juvenile offenders to adult courts, and ultimately ruled the statutes unconstitutional.

In State v. Aalim, the majority opinion, authored by Justice Lanzinger, held that mandatory transfer of a juvenile to adult court without providing for the protection of an amenability hearing by the juvenile court judge violates the juvenile offender’s right to due process under Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution. Ohio laws providing for discretionary transfer of juveniles, aged 14 or older, to common pleas courts remain constitutional, but the mandatory transfer provisions in R.C.2152.10(A)(2)(b) and R.C. 2152.12(A)(1)(b) were ruled unconstitutional. The majority opinion stated that the Ohio Supreme Court has recognized that in some matters, the Ohio Constitution offers greater protections than the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, Ohio’s juvenile system was created by the state legislature to focus on individual assessment in determining the best interests of the child. Therefore, an amenability hearing by a juvenile court judge must be held before transfer to meet a higher standard of fundamental fairness required for due process for juveniles.

Justice Kennedy concurred in part and dissented in part. She agreed that discretionary-transfer statutes are constitutional, but disagreed that Ohio’s due process clause requires an amenability hearing before transferring a juvenile offender to adult court. Kennedy wrote that the majority went against the Court’s precedent by interpreting Ohio’s due process clause differently than the comparable federal clause. Kennedy also noted that Ohio’s mandatory-transfer procedure included steps that met standards of fundamental fairness, and amenability hearings should not be required. Kennedy wrote that the fundamental fairness requirements discussed by the majority are not statutorily required, and the transfer issue is a policy decision that should have been left to the legislature.

Justice French also dissented and wrote that the majority failed to offer compelling reasons to grant juvenile offenders greater protections under the Ohio Constitution compared to the U.S. Constitution. She found that the pre-transfer hearing available to juveniles who qualified for mandatory transfer was adequate due process protection. French also stated that the transfer of juveniles is a policy decision meant for the legislature.

The Ohio Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision in State v. Mole, Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-5124, on July 28, 2016. The issue before the Court was whether R.C. 2907.03(A)(13) violated the equal protection clause of the United States and Ohio constitutions. The felony sexual battery statute prohibited sexual conduct by a peace office with a minor when the officer is more than two years older than the minor.

The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice O’Connor, recognizes that the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and Ohio Constitutions are “substantively equivalent” and require the same review (see Paragraph 14). O’Connor then goes on to examine the authority of a state supreme court to independently construe its own state’s constitution. Citing both Ohio Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court precedent, the opinion states that the Ohio Constitution is an independent document and that state courts may interpret their state constitutions as providing  greater rights and protections beyond what may be afforded by the federal constitution. O’Connor cites decisions where the Ohio Supreme Court moved away from federal interpretations and provided greater protections, and decisions where the Court held closely to the federal interpretations. The majority opinion states that the Ohio Supreme Court makes the final decisions on the meaning of the Ohio Constitution, and will construe broader individual rights when the Court deems it appropriate. Therefore, the Court determines that R.C. 2907.03(A)(13) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Ohio Constitution and is unconstitutional, even if the federal clause may be interpreted differently (see Paragraphs 21-23).

To reach the decision that R.C. 2907.03(A)(13) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Ohio Constitution, the majority opinion applies the rational-basis test and examines whether the provision regarding peace officers was rationally related to a legitimate state purpose. R.C. 2907.03 was intended to prohibit sexual conduct in situations where the offender is taking advantage of an authoritative relationship with the victim or the victim is part of a vulnerable population. The state argued that the rational basis for adding the peace officer provision, regardless of whether the officer was taking advantage of their professional status, was to hold peace officers to a higher standard to ensure integrity, maintain public trust, and protect minors (see Paragraph 45). The majority opinion notes that other provisions of the statute require an occupational relationship between the offender and the victim, such as teacher and student or mental health professional and patient. However, the section dealing with peace officers did not require an occupational relationship, and instead imposed strict liability based only on the offender’s occupational classification. The majority opinion then determines that using a person’s classification as a peace officer to impose different sexual conduct standards, even where the conduct at issue was not related to the offender’s occupation, is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest (see Paragraphs 68-70).

Justice Kennedy dissented, writing that the protections provided by the Ohio Equal Protection Clause and the federal clause are the same. Kennedy disagreed with the majority’s analysis of Ohio precedent and argued that the Court instead should have focused on the language and history of each clause. By viewing the protections under both clauses as the same, Kennedy determined that the statute would have survived rational-basis review (see Paragraphs 73-74). Justice French also dissented, writing that the majority opinion does not provide enough analysis explaining why Ohio’s clause should be interpreted more broadly than the federal clause, and that the statute was rationally related to legitimate state interests (see Paragraphs 110-118).

On June 9, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision in In re A.G., Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-3306. The case was on appeal from an Eighth District Court of Appeals decision holding that the juvenile court did not err by refusing to merge acts that would have merged in adult criminal court because criminal statutes do not apply to juvenile proceedings. The Supreme Court of Ohio reversed, holding that juveniles are entitled to the same constitutional double-jeopardy protections as adults under Article I, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution. Additionally, the same double-jeopardy analysis conducted in adult proceedings must be applied to juvenile proceedings.

In Toledo City School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. State Bd. of Edn., the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Article II, Section 28 of the Ohio Constitution, providing protection against retroactive laws, only applies to individuals and private corporations, not to local governments. The case arose out of funding reductions made by the Ohio Department of Education in 2005-2007 for the districts of Toledo, Dayton, and Cleveland. The districts filed suit in 2011 to recover the funds taken by the Department.

The Department argued that it was immune from liability under a 2009 state budget bill that specifically immunized the Department from claims made by school districts for the 2005-2007 funding reductions. The districts argued that the 2009 immunity provision was unconstitutionally retroactive.

The Court examined Ohio precedent that withheld protection from political subdivisions, and precedent from other states where similar laws were found to apply only to private individuals and corporations. The Court also stated that government bodies must be subject to alteration if change is deemed necessary. The majority opinion, issued on May 4, 2016 and written by Justice Kennedy, allows the state legislature to retroactively adjust local school funding.

In an opinion issued April 28, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that R.C. 2933.81(B) violates the due process rights of juveniles. The law presumes that a juvenile suspect’s statements made while in police custody are voluntary, if they are electronically recorded. In State v. Barker, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 decision that this presumption is unconstitutional, and that the state bears the burden of establishing that a juvenile suspect’s electronically recorded statements were voluntary.


The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Frederick Kinsey, one of the parties in State ex rel. Walgate v. Kasich, has standing to challenge the constitutionality of a 2009 voter-approved amendment to the Ohio Constitution that permits limited casino and “racino” gambling operations. In order to have standing, the Court requires a plaintiff to show that he suffered an injury caused by the defendant’s actions, remedied by the requested relief. (See, ProgressOhio.org, Inc. v. JobsOhio). Kinsey claims that the state’s constitutional amendment and gambling laws violate the Equal Protection Clause by essentially allowing a monopoly on the operation of casinos. Thus, the injury on which Kinsey’s standing claim is based, is that the amendment and gambling laws create barriers that prevent him from even applying for a casino operator license. The lead opinion by Justice French, issued March 24, 2016, rejected all other claims by the other parties in the collectively-filed suit. In a concurring opinion, Justice Pfeifer wrote that he would have granted more parties standing, whereas Justice Lanzinger’s dissent argues for rejecting all claims including Kinsey’s.

The slip opinion is located here: 2016-Ohio-1176

A detailed summary from Court News Ohio is located here: Citizen has Standing to Challenge Constitutionality of Ohio Casino Gambling

supreme-court-statueThe Ohio Supreme Court ruled in State v. Broom that it is not “cruel and unusual punishment” or double jeopardy to make a second attempt at executing the same person after the first attempt failed. The 4-3 decision was issued last Wednesday, with the majority opinion finding that since the medical team had failed to locate a suitable vein for administering the lethal injection drug, the execution never actually began. To learn more about the case, Court News Ohio has prepared a summary, and the slip opinion can be found here on the Supreme Court’s website.

The Ohio Supreme Court held that a “Community Bill of Rights” charter amendment, which would ban fracking in Youngstown, must go on the ballot.  See Alliance Review, Court orders anti-fracking issue back on ballot in Youngstown  The Mahoning County Board of Elections had refused to put it on the ballot, stating that it was contrary to the Ohio Constitution, as expressed by the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision, State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., 2015-Ohio-485.  The Ohio Supreme Court held that the County Board of Elections does not have the power to refuse to put an charter amendment on the ballot because it believes the charter amendment is contrary to the Ohio Constitution.  See State ex rel. Youngstown v. Mahoning Cty. Bd. of Elections, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-3761.   Docket.

State ex rel. Wilen v. Kent, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-3763. A city charter can not require a higher number of signatures in order to get a proposed charter amendment on the ballot than what is required by the Ohio Constitution Article XVIII, Section 9.  Docket.

See Cleveland.com  Ohio Supreme Court rules Kent officials unconstitutionally blocked ‘Democracy Day’ ballot issue

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