If it seems like the blog was silent most of December, it was. That’s because other than lots of disciplinary cases, mandamus and prohibition actions, and other administrative matters decided without argument, the Supreme Court of Ohio hasn’t issued much in the way of merit decisions since Justice O’Neill announced his gubernatorial run on October 29. Could be just a coincidence.
The big change in 2017 was the retirement of Justices Lanzinger and Pfeifer because of age, and the arrival on the Court of Justices DeWine and Fischer last January. As a general observation, Chief Justice O’Connor has lost two reliable allies, and the Court has moved in a more conservative direction, most notably in the area of the protection of juveniles.
Here’s my annual top ten list.
- Titles of Former and Retired Judges, Revisited. I didn’t think this subject would generate much interest back when I wrote this post in 2014, and yet it made the top ten list last year at slot number 7, and number one this year. Maybe because people wonder what to call Justice O’Neill on the gubernatorial campaign trail? (I’m guessing he’d say, “call me Bill.”)
- State v. Anderson, 2016-Ohio-5791. In this case, the Court was faced with the question of how many times a criminal defendant could be retried. In Anderson’s case, the Court permitted a fifth retrial, even though Anderson had been incarcerated without a conviction for fourteen years at that point. Read an analysis of the very fractured merit decision here. As part of a plea agreement, Anderson has been released since this decision came out.
- Anderson v. Massillon, 2012-Ohio-5711. This case has been a huge favorite ever since it was decided. It gets cited a lot. The Court held in the case that negligence, recklessness, willful and wanton misconduct represent different degrees of culpability, and defined all these terms. Read the analysis of the merit decision here.
- Bank of America, N.A. v. George M. Kuchta, et al., 2013-0304. In Kuchta, the Court held that a Civ. R. 60(B) motion cannot be used as a substitute for an appeal on the issue of standing in a foreclosure action, and cannot be used to collaterally attack the judgment. Additionally, the Court held that a court that has subject-matter jurisdiction over an action does not lose that jurisdiction because a party to the action does not have standing in that particular case. Read the analysis of the merit decision here. The Court has been very active with foreclosure issues, but not this year.
- The merit decision in Liming v. Damos, 2012-Ohio-4783. This one has made the list many times. The Court held that a purge hearing to impose a suspended sentence for failure to pay child support is a civil proceeding, and due process does not require the appointment of counsel for an indigent parent at the civil contempt purge hearing. Read the analysis of the merit decision here.
- D.W. v. T.L., 2012-Ohio-5743. This is another perennial favorite, and I’m glad for that, since it was successfully argued by one of my former students. The issue was how a child’s last name is determined when the parents aren’t married and disagree about it. The Court held that under its existing precedent, the test in a name change case is the best interest of the child, which in this case was to keep the mother’s name. Read the analysis of the merit decision here.
- Douglas Prade. The former Akron Police Captain was convicted of the aggravated murder of his ex-wife, Dr. Margo Prade, and has been through quite the legal marathon since the original conviction—granted a new DNA test by the Supreme Court of Ohio, found to be actually innocent, released from prison, had the finding of actual innocence reversed, been put back in prison, denied a new trial after one had originally been provisionally granted, and denied a writ of prohibition against the present trial judge and the Ninth District Court of Appeals by the Supreme Court in September of 2017. His case is now back in the Ninth District Court of Appeals, which is considering the denial of his motion for a new trial. There have been many blog posts about Prade’s case, which apparently still draws a lot of interest. The Ohio Innocence Project has long worked on his behalf.
- Observations on Justice O’Neill’s Intent to Recuse from Future Cases. Justice Bill O’Neill has caused quite the kerfuffle by announcing on October 29, 2017 that he would run in the Democratic primary for governor, initially refusing to leave the Court until the primary filing deadline February 7, 2018, then deciding he would recuse from hearing any new cases but would participate in deciding the submitted ones, and most recently, announcing he would leave the Court January 26, 2018, about a year earlier than his term ends.
- Cert. Petition filed by State in State v. Hand. In August of 2016, by a vote of 4-3, the previous court, with Justices Lanzinger and Pfeifer still on it, held, in State v. Hand, 2016-Ohio-5504, that it is unconstitutional to use a juvenile adjudication as the equivalent of an adult conviction to enhance a penalty for a later crime. This is decidedly the minority viewpoint on this issue around the country, so the state tried, but failed, to get the case into the U.S. Supreme Court. The state’s cert. petition was denied February 17, 2017.
- Grant of Reconsideration in State v. Aalim. At the end of 2016, by a vote of 4-3, the Court struck down statutes requiring the mandatory transfer of juveniles to the general division of common pleas court, as a violation of juveniles’ right to due process as guaranteed by Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution (Aalim I, 2016-Ohio-8278). But after the retirement of Justices Lanzinger and Pfeifer, who were part of the majority in Aalim I, the Court, with new Justices DeWine and Fischer on board, granted reconsideration in the case and then reversed itself, upholding the mandatory transfers. (Aalim II, 2017-Ohio-2956).