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Category Archive for 'Ohio Supreme Court Decisions'

Ohio courts are not bound by the case or controversy requirements of Article III of the U.S. Constitution in determining whether cases in the Ohio courts are justiciable, but they are free to look to federal principles in developing state justiciability requirements, including the ripeness requirement.

Under the Reagan Tokes Law, O.R.C. 2967.271, which became effective on March 22, 2019, the state established indefinite-sentencing provisions for people convicted of non-life-sentence felony offenses of the first or second degree. As described by the Ohio Supreme Court, under this statute “there is a presumption that the offender will be released on the expiration of his or her minimum prison term or earned early-release date, but the statute enables [the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction] to rebut the presumption and keep the offender incarcerated up to the expiration of his or her maximum prison term.”

In this case, the defendant claimed that O.R.C. 2926.271 violates the separation-of-powers requirement of the Ohio Constitution and his rights to a trial by jury and due process of law under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and their parallel Ohio provisions.

Numerous Ohio prisoners had challenged the constitutionality of this provision, and lower Ohio courts were split on whether challenges could be made on direct appeal at the time of the initial sentencing or whether the ripeness doctrine required a prisoner to wait until the administrative application of an extension, which could then be challenged in a habeas corpus proceeding.

On March 16, 2021, the Ohio Supreme Court in State v. Maddox, ____ Ohio St.3d ____ , 2022-Ohio-764, 2022 WL 790470, ____ N.E.3d ____ (2022), held in a 4-3 decision that a criminal defendant’s challenge to the constitutionality of the Reagan Tokes Law was ripe for review in the defendant’s direct appeal of his conviction and prison sentence. None of the Ohio justices addressed the merits of the defendant’s claim, and only one of the three dissenting justices discussed the “merits” of the ripeness issue.  The two other dissenting justices questioned whether there was a split in the district courts of appeals, as well as whether this case was a proper vehicle for addressing the ripeness issue.

In framing the issue, the court relied primarily on Ohio cases that addressed the relevance of ripeness in determining whether a controversy was justiciable.

 

In order to be justiciable a controversy must be ripe for review.” Keller v. Columbus, 100 Ohio St.3d 192, 2003-Ohio-5599, 797 N.E.2d 964, ¶ 26; see also Pack v. Cleveland, 1 Ohio St.3d 129, 438 N.E.2d 434 (1982), paragraph one of the syllabus. Article IV, Section 4(B) of the Ohio Constitution provides that “[t]he courts of common pleas * * * shall have original jurisdiction over all justiciable matters * * * as provided by law,” and this court has stated that “it is the duty of every judicial tribunal to decide actual controversies between parties legitimately affected by specific facts and to render judgments which can be carried into effect.” Fortner v. Thomas, 22 Ohio St.2d 13, 14, 257 N.E.2d 371 (1970). “ ‘The basic principle of ripeness may be derived from the conclusion that “judicial machinery should be conserved for problems which are real or present and imminent, not squandered on problems which are abstract or hypothetical or remote.” ’ ” State ex rel. Elyria Foundry Co. v. Indus. Comm., 82 Ohio St.3d 88, 89, 694 N.E.2d 459 (1988), quoting Comment, Mootness and Ripeness: The Postman Always Rings Twice, 65 Colum. L. Rev. 867, 876 (1965), quoting Davis, Ripeness of Governmental Action for Judicial Review, 68 Harv. L. Rev. 1122, 1122 (1955).

 

The court also looked to federal court decisions on ripeness for guidance, and the court further held that the prudential concerns of ripeness did not prevent the issue from being addressed on direct appeal.

 

Ripeness is distinct from standing, but both doctrines require that “an injury in fact be certainly impending.” Natl. Treasury Emps. Union v. United States, 101 F.3d 1423, 1427 (D.C.Cir.1996). “[I]f a threatened injury is sufficiently ‘imminent’ to establish standing, the constitutional requirements of the ripeness doctrine will necessarily be satisfied.” Id. at 1428. Then, “only the prudential justiciability concerns of ripeness can act to bar consideration of the claim.” Id. The prudential-justiciability concerns include (1) whether the claim is fit for judicial decision and (2) whether withholding court consideration will cause hardship to the parties.

 

Because the defendant had been sentenced under O.R.C. 2967.271, the court concluded that no further factual development was necessary to analyze the challenge. And it further concluded that a delay in reviewing the issue would result in duplicative litigation, would force the defendant (and others appealing their sentences) to endure potential violations of their constitutional rights while waiting to see whether they are denied release at the expiration of their minimum prison terms.

Unlike the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides, in part, that “excessive bail shall not be required,” Article I, sec, 9, of the Ohio Constitution provides not only that “[e]xcessive bail shall not be required” but also that there is an affirmative or positive (but qualified) right to bail: “A person shall be bailable by sufficient sureties . . . .”

The right to bail in the Ohio Constitution can be traced to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which provided an affirmative right to bail as well as an exception in capital cases. See Northwest Ordinance, Sec. 14, art. 1I (“All persons shall be bailable, unless for capital offences, where the proof shall be evident, or the presumption great.”). In slightly different language, the 1802 Constitution in Art. VIII, sec. 12, guaranteed the right to bail in non-capital cases, See 1802 Const., Art. VIII, sec. 12 (“That all persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, unless for capital offenses, where the proof is evident or the presumption great . . . .”).  In addition, the 1802 Constitution in another provision provided that “[e]xcessive bail shall not be required . . . .” 1802 Const., Art. VIII, sec. 13.

In 1997, the voters approved an amendment that permitted the denial of bail in non-capital felony cases where the defendant posed “a substantial risk of serious physical harm to any person or to the community.”  The 1997 amendment required the General Assembly to fix standards for making this determination, but it delegated to the Ohio Supreme Court authority to establish procedures “for establishing the amount and conditions of bail.”

Article I, sec. 9, of the current Ohio Constitution, which also includes a ban on the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment and the imposition of excessive fines, provides in its entirety as follows:

All persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for a person who is charged with a capital offense where the proof is evident or the presumption great, and except for a person who is charged with a felony where the proof is evident or the presumption great and where the person poses a substantial risk of serious physical harm to any person or to the community. Where a person is charged with any offense for which the person may be incarcerated, the court may determine at any time the type, amount, and conditions of bail. Excessive bail shall not be required; nor excessive fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

 

The General Assembly shall fix by law standards to determine whether a person who is charged with a felony where the proof is evident or the presumption great poses a substantial risk of serious physical harm to any person or to the community. Procedures for establishing the amount and conditions of bail shall be established pursuant to Article IV, Section 5(B) of the Constitution of the state of Ohio.

 

In 2005, the Ohio Supreme Court, relying on the text of this section, its history, and the purpose of the 1997 amendment, held that a cash-only bail bond is unconstitutional. Smith v. Leis , 106 Ohio St.3d 309, 857 N.E.2d 138 (2005). And, in 2014, the court held that this section is violated when a court requires that 10 percent of the bail be paid in cash and prohibits a defendant from posting a surety bond for the full amount. State ex rel. Sylvester v. Neal, 140 Ohio St.3d 47, 14 N.E.3d 1024 (2014).

In its most recent decision addressing this section, the Ohio Supreme Court in DuBose v. McGuffey, ____ Ohio St.3d ____ , 2022 WL 34730, 2022-Ohio-8, ____ N.E.3d ____ (Jan. 4, 2022), held in a 4-3 decision that the “sole purpose of bail is to ensure a person’s attendance in court” and held that an appellate court acted properly in applying a de novo, rather than an abuse of discretion, standard in reviewing a trial court’s setting of bail. The court also held that the safety concerns of a victim’s family were not proper considerations with respect to the financial conditions of bail because “public safety is not a consideration with respect to the financial conditions of bail” (emphasis in original) and that a $1.5 million bail was constitutionally excessive under Art. I, sec. 9, because “the serious nature of the charges did not outweigh [the defendant’s] lack of financial resources.” Finally, the court pointed out that this section of the Ohio Constitution permitted the adoption of a statute, see R.C. 2937.222, for an order of detention without bail, which, when properly relied upon, could justify the denial of bail in cases where a defendant is a danger to any person or to the community, and it further noted that the 1997 amendment delegated to the Ohio Supreme Court the power to adopt “[p]rocedures for establishing the amount and conditions of bail . . . .”

Ohio Constitution Network has been updated, and the Court Decisions from 2021 now includes 15 decisions of the Ohio Supreme Court in which the court addressed directly or indirectly issues concerning the Ohio Constitution.  See the Court Decisions menu on the Ohio Constitutional Law and History website.

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

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