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Category Archive for 'Ohio Supreme Court Decisions'

State ex rel. Walker v. Husted, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-3749.  In determining whether a petition to adopt a county charter can be placed on the ballot, the Secretary of State may not deny the petition because it believes provisions of the charters would violate the Ohio Constitution by unconstitutionally interfering with the state’s exclusive authority to regulate oil and gas operations.  The Secretary of State can hold petitions invalid because they do not meet the threshold requirements of a charter initiative set out in Article X, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution.  Docket.

See Athens Messenger Supreme Court: County charters will not be on November ballot

The Ohio Supreme Court held that an extraterritorial search, prohibited by RC 4513.39, can violate the Ohio Constitution’s provision against search and seizures, Ohio Constitution, Art. I, Section 14, even though the search did not violate the U.S. Constitution as there was probable cause for the search.  See CourtNewsOhio, Officer Had No Authority to Make Traffic Stop Outside Jurisdiction .  The case is State v. Brown, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-2438.

See our prior post Ohio Supreme Court to Decide Whether Ohio Constitution Affords More Protection Against Unlawful Searches and Seizures Than U.S. Constitution.

In Hillenmeyer v. Cleveland Bd. of Rev., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-1623, the Ohio Supreme Court found that:

Cleveland’s use of the games-played method violates due process as applied to NFL players such as Hillenmeyer. Under the duty-days method, which provides due process and satisfies Cleveland’s municipal-income-tax ordinance, Hillenmeyer is entitled to a partial refund of the tax paid. While other computation methods might also provide due process, Cleveland has not suggested any method of alternative relief.

Id. at ¶ 53.

Hillenmeyer’s due process claim was based on the U.S. Constitution.  No due process claim under the Ohio Constitution was made.

Hillenmeyer argued that Cleveland’s method of taxing professional sports players from visiting teams violates the player’s Equal Protection rights under both the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions.  Former R.C. 718.011 provided that cities can not tax someone who worked in the city for twelve or fewer days that year, unless the personal is a  professional entertainer or athlete (and other exceptions).  Hillenmeyer only played two games in Cleveland. The Ohio Supreme Court found that Hillenmeyer’s exclusion from the 12-day grace period did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.  There was sufficient rational basis to make an exception for professional athletes in the tax statute, because:

First, professional athletes are typically highly paid, and their work is easy to find, so that a city could earn significant revenue with comparative ease.   Second, the legislature could rationally find that professional athletes and entertainers and their events incur much larger public burdens relating to police protection and traffic and crowd control, among other public services, than do other occasional entrants. We conclude that these two factors, in addition to the reliance interest of municipalities in the continued levy of existing taxes, are sufficient to justify the exclusion of a professional athlete such as Hillenmeyer from the 12-day grace period.

Id. at ¶ 32.

Also see: Oral argument preview.  Oral Argument Video for this case.

In State v. Bode, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-1519, the Ohio Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision held that a defendant’s juvenile adjudication of delinquency for DUI could not enhance the penalty for a later adult sentence for DUI, when there was no defense counsel at the juvenile adjudication, and there was no waiver of the right to counsel.  The court held this was true even though the juvenile adjudication did not result in confinement – it was enough that confinement could have been imposed.

The majority opinion appears to base its decision on both the U.S. and the Ohio Constitution.  The majority opinion recognized that U.S. Supreme Court decisions require that actual confinement must be imposed in misdemeanor cases for the right to counsel to attach.  See Scott v. Illinois, 440 U.S. 367, 373, 99 S.Ct. 1158, 59 L.Ed.2d 383 (1979), Nichols v. United States, 511 U.S. at 743, 114 S.Ct. 1921, 128 L.Ed.2d 745.  The majority distinguished these cases because they involved adult convictions, not juvenile delinquency cases. The majority opinion states:

This limitation, however, fails to account for the fact that juvenile proceedings are civil, and therefore juvenile rights to counsel arise under the constitutional protection of due process. C.S., 115 Ohio St.3d 267, 2007–Ohio–4919, 874 N.E.2d 1177, at ¶ 76, 79–80. In Gault [In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 36-37, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.Ed.2d 527 (1967)] the Court held that the due-process right to counsel attached to all juvenile proceedings that pose a threat of confinement. Gault, 387 U.S. at 41, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.Ed.2d 527.

State v. Bode, 2015-Ohio-1519, ¶ 19.

Moreover, the majority opinion stated that the Ohio Constitution may afford more rights than the U.S. Constitution.  So, even if the U.S. Constitution’s due process rights only kick in if the juvenile was actually incarcerated, the Ohio Constitution grants the right to counsel if confinement was merely possible for a misdemeanor offense.

Three judges dissented.  The dissent states that the majority created new, Ohio-specific constitutional doctrines absent sufficient reasons why Ohio constitutional law should differ from the federal law. Id. at ¶ 33.

It appears the majority opinion found the reason to deviate from federal law was that: Under Ohio law, a juvenile is entitled to counsel at all stages of the proceeding (former R.C. 2151.35). Also, State v. Schleiger, 141 Ohio St.3d 67, 2014-Ohio-3970, 21 N.E.3d 103 held that it is the possibility of confinement that matters, not actual confinement. Schleiger was a felony case, but the majority did not see any logic or purpose in the felony/misdemeanor distinction. Furthermore, allowing an uncounseled misdemeanor to mandate an increased penalty of imprisonment for a later crime would violate due process and goes beyond the holding of Nichols v. United States, 511 U.S. at 743, 114 S.Ct. 1921, 128 L.Ed.2d 745. See the concurrence in Nichols, at 754. The sentencing enhancement in Nichols was not automatic, but:

Under the Guidelines, then, the role prior convictions play in sentencing is presumptive, not conclusive, and a defendant has the chance to convince the sentencing court of the unreliability of any prior valid but uncounseled convictions in reflecting the seriousness of his past criminal conduct or predicting the likelihood of recidivism.

Nichols, concurrence at 752.  In this case, Bode was automatically subject to an increased prison term based on the prior uncounseled conviction.

State v. Bode, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-1519Docket, Oral Argument, Court News Ohio, Juvenile Has Right to Counsel if Facing Possible Confinement

The writer of this blog notes that there are other cases where the Ohio Supreme Court held that the Ohio Constitution afforded more rights than the U.S. Constitution, even when the language of the Ohio Constitution and U.S. Constitution are similar.  See State v. Brown, 99 Ohio St.3d 323, 2003-Ohio-3931, 792 N.E.2d 175 (Section 14, Article I of the Ohio Constitution provides greater protection than the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution against warrantless arrests for minor misdemeanors.), State v. Farris, 109 Ohio St.3d 519, 2006-Ohio-3255, 849 N.E.2d 985 (Physical evidence seized as a result of unwarned but voluntary statements is inadmissible under Ohio Constitution Article I, Section 10 provision regarding self-incrimination, although it would be admissible under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.)

The Ohio Supreme Court may again consider whether the Ohio Constitution provides more rights than the U.S. Constitution in an upcoming search and seizure case.  See our prior post, Ohio Supreme Court to Decide Whether Ohio Constitution Affords More Protection Against Unlawful Searches and Seizures Than U.S. Constitution.

The Ohio Supreme Court held that a Lodi zoning ordinance deprives mobile-home park owners of their due process rights under the Ohio and U.S. Constitutions.  The ordinance involved mobile parks in areas where current zoning prohibits mobile homes, but the mobile parks existed before the zoning prohibiting them, so they are grandfathered in.  This is known as a nonconforming use.  The Lodi ordinance provided that if the mobile home was absent from the lot for six months, the nonconforming use is discontinued.  If a mobile home lot was vacant for six months, Lodi would refuse to reconnect water and electrical service when a new tenant wanted to rent the lot.  The Court found that the mobile-home park owner was deprived of their property without due process of law because the ordinance imputes a tenant’s abandonment of a lot within a mobile-home park on the park’s owner.
State ex rel. Sunset Estate Properties, L.L.C., v. Lodi, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-790

The Ohio Supreme Court held that City of Munroe Falls’ ordinances requiring drillers to get a conditional zoning certificate, pay a deposit for a performance bond, hold a public hearing and a wait a year before drilling were preempted by State law regulating drilling. Justice French wrote the lead opinion joined by Justices O’Connor and Kennedy.  Justice O’Donnell wrote a concurring opinion (concurring in judgment only) and Justice Kennedy also concurred with the concurring opinion.   Justice Lanzinger dissented, joined by Justices Pfeifer and O’Neill.  Justices Pfeifer and O’Neill also wrote their own dissenting opinions.  The upshot is that while the Munroe Falls ordinances were found in conflict with State law, it is an open question whether a zoning ordinance is necessarily in conflict with State oil and gas laws.  The Munroe Falls ordinances included both zoning and drilling ordinances which required the same permit, so both had to be held in conflict, according to the concurrence.  See State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-485

See Court News Ohio opinion summary.

Lead Opinion

The lead opinion notes that Ohio Revised Code 1509.02 explicitly grants sole and exclusive authority to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations within Ohio.  Home Rule power can not be exercised in a way that conflicts with the general laws. Ohio Constitution Article XVIII, Section 3.  The City asserted that ORC Chapter 1509 was not a general law because it did not apply to all parts of the state.  Only the eastern part of the state has economically viable quantities of oil and gas.  That argument was rejected because the statute applies to all municipalities in the same fashion, although the law may have a disparate impact on certain geographic locations.

The lead opinion found the Munroe Falls ordinances conflict with the State licensing scheme because they restrict an activity that the State law permits.  The City argued that the ordinances did not conflict with State law because the ordinances address zoning issues, while the State law addresses safety and correlative rights.  This argument was rejected because the ordinances and the State law regulate the same subject matter – oil and gas drilling.  Moreover, the Court noted that ORC 1509.02 explicitly gives the State exclusive authority over  permitting, location, spacing, and production operations, reserving to local governments, “… extensive regulatory control given to municipalities over a wide range of infrastructure—from alleys to aqueducts, see R.C. 723.01 and 4513.34—it explicitly prohibits them from exercising those powers in a way that “discriminates against, unfairly impedes, or obstructs” the activities and operations covered by R.C. 1509.02.”

The City raised policy arguments that municipalities and the State should work together to regulate drilling.  The lead opinion said that these policy considerations are a matter for the legislature.  The General Assembly wrote ORC Chapter 1509 to restrict regulation of this area to the State.  In other words, if municipalities and/or the people of Ohio believe cities should regulate permitting, location, spacing of drilling and production operations, they will need to work for change in the legislation.

Concurring Opinion

A concurring opinion by Justice O’Donnell notes that the Munroe Falls ordinances in question include both a zoning ordinance and ordinances dealing with permits for oil and gas.  The permit ordinance directly conflicts with State permitting law.  The zoning ordinance fails too because it contains the same restrictions as the permit ordinance.  But it remains to be decided whether the General Assembly intended to supplant zoning laws.   Spacing and location of wells (regulated under State law) have technical meanings relating to efficient production of oil and gas and correlative rights, and thus do not encompass zoning issues such as compatibility with a neighborhood.  In addition to Home Rule authority, zoning authority also arises by statute, ORC 713.07, another reason why municipalities may have power to enact zoning regulations that apply to drilling.

Dissenting Opinion

Justice Lanzinger felt it was not clear that the Munroe Falls ordinances conflict with State law.  A preemption statement in a state law alone is not enough to show that an ordinance conflicts with the general law. ORC 1509.02 does not specifically prohibit local zoning regulation.



Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that when a defendant asserts a mental-capacity defense and then abandons it, psychologist’s testimony regarding defendant’s feigning of mental illness violates defendant’s right against self-incrimination guaranteed by Article I, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

State v. Harris, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-166Docket. Oral Argument. Oral Argument PreviewCourt News Ohio Article.

The Ohio Supreme Court held that administrative appeals of traffic camera tickets did not unconstitutionally usurp the powers of municipal courts as set forth in the Ohio Constitution.  The case involved the  City of Toledo’s practice of  diverting challenges to traffic camera violation notices to an administrative hearing officer set up within the police department. The case is  Walker v. City of Toledo, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-5461.   See  Court News Ohio, City Appeals Process for Traffic Camera Violations Does Not Infringe on Jurisdiction of Courts:

“In a 4-3 decision, the court determined that the legislature’s constitutional authority to create municipal courts and the statute defining the jurisdiction of municipal courts do not give municipal courts exclusive control over traffic law violations.

In addition, Ohio municipalities have home-rule authority to establish administrative proceedings related to civil enforcement of traffic ordinances, and those proceedings must be exhausted before parties can seek remedies in the courts, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion.”

A similar case, Jodka v. City of Cleveland, Case no.2014-0636 (Docket) was stayed for a decision in Walker.   Cleveland residents recently voted to amend the city charter to ban traffic cameras, “unless a law enforcement officer is present at the location of the device and personally issues a ticket to the alleged violator at the time and date of the violation.”  However, the case is still relevant to tickets issued before the ban, and possibly if similar procedures are utilized for traffic cameras when a police officer is present.

The Ohio House and Senate recently approved a bill that would outlaw the use of traffic cameras unless a police officer is present, and imposes other requirements on the use of traffic cameras.  SB 342. The bill must be signed by the governor or the veto overridden to go into effect.  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).”


A police officer requested warrants for the arrest of Brandon Hoffman for house stripping.  The request set forth the elements of the offense, name of suspect and location of offense, but contained no facts as to why officers suspected Hoffman of house stripping.  A Toledo Municipal Court magistrate issued the warrants based on the request alone, and never questioned police as to their reasons for suspecting the defendant.  The arrest warrants were executed and evidence possibly linking Hoffman to a murder was discovered in Hoffman’s home.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that arrest warrants issued by the Toledo Municipal Court were invalid under the U.S. and Ohio Constitution because the requests set forth no facts showing a probable cause that the suspect committed the offense, the magistrate had no other facts upon which to base probable cause, and the magistration never even made a determination as to probable cause.   However, the Ohio Supreme Court held that police officers reasonably relied on the arrest warrants, because they were executed under a procedure approved by the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals.  State v. Hoffman, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-4795.

The majority opinion stated that Ohio Constitution Art. I, Sec. 14 uses identical language to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, so the Ohio Constitution offers the same protection as the U.S. Constitution.  (par. 11 of the opinion).  Justice Pfeiffer’s dissent states that he may have been persuaded that the Ohio Constitution affords more protection in a case such as this, but the defendant did not make an argument based on the Ohio Constitution.

The dissent believes however, that even under the U.S. Constitution and the case law interpreting it, the evidence gained from execution of the warrants had to be suppressed.   The police officers could not have had a good faith belief that the warrants were valid because no one ever asked the police officer requesting the warrants why she believed the suspect committed the crime.

Also see Court News Ohio, Courts Must Find Probable Cause Before Issuing Arrest Warrants

The Ohio Supreme Court recently held that R.C. 2307.92, requiring a smoker with an asbestos claim to present a diagnosis by a competent medical authority that the exposure to asbestos is a substantial contributing factor in order to avoid dismissal, did not violate the Ohio Constitution.  The plaintiff asserted that these requirements violated the plaintiff’s rights to a meaningful, timely remedy under Ohio Constitution, Article I, Section 16 or the right to a jury trial under Ohio Constitution, Article I, Section 5.

Renfrow v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. , 2014-Ohio-3666.

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