Oral Argument Set for Ohio v. Clark.

As previously reported on the blog, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert. in the case now captioned Ohio v. Clark, which was an appeal by the state from the merit decision of the Supreme Court of Ohio in State v. Clark, 2013-Ohio-4731.

This is the syllabus of the 4-3 decision in State v.Clark:

  1. At a minimum, when questioning a child about suspected abuse in furtherance of a duty pursuant to R.C. 2151.421 (prof’s note-this is the mandatory abuse reporting statute) a teacher acts in a dual capacity as both an instructor and as an agent of the state for law-enforcement purposes.
  2. Statements elicited from a child by a teacher in the absence of an ongoing emergency and for the primary purpose of gathering information of past criminal conduct and identifying the alleged perpetrator of suspected child abuse are testimonial in nature in accordance with Davis v. Washington, 547 U.S. 813, 822, 126 S.Ct. 2266, 165 L.Ed.2d 224 (2006), and State v. Siler, 116 Ohio St.3d 39, 2007-Ohio-5637, 876 N.E.2d 534.

Read an analysis of the merit decision in Clark here.

The Clark case has now been set for oral argument on Monday, March 2, 2015.

The two specific questions presented are:

  1. Does an individual’s obligation to report suspected child abuse make that individual an agent of law enforcement for purposes of the Confrontation Clause?
  2. Do a child’s out-of-court statements to a teacher in response to the teacher’s concerns about potential child abuse qualify as “testimonial” statements subject to the Confrontation Clause?

Numerous amicus briefs have been filed on behalf of the state.  All can be accessed on the SCOTUS blog here.

Jeffrey L. Fischer, Professor of Law at Stanford University and Co-Director of the school’s Supreme Court Clinic, has been appointed as counsel for Clark.  Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office will argue for Ohio.  Ohio’s State Solicitor is Eric E. Murphy. The U.S. Solicitor General’s Office has moved to share oral argument time with DeWine’s office.  That motion has not yet been ruled on, but undoubtedly will be granted.

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