Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Marlon Clemons v. State of Ohio, Case no. 2014-0228
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

Dale N. Johnston v. State of Ohio, Case no. 2014-0530
Tenth District Court of Appeals (Franklin County)

City of Cleveland v. Janine Lycan et al., Case no. 2014-0358
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

Are Speedy Trial Rights Violated if State Fails to Prosecute Case Directly After Arrest?

Marlon Clemons v. State of Ohio, Case no. 2014-0228
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

ISSUE: Does a criminal complaint start the process for a criminal defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial?

In August 2009, the Cleveland Police Department filed a criminal complaint against Marlon Clemons and issued an arrest warrant after Clemons fired a gun at a home. Clemons eluded arrest until March 2010, when police arrested Clemons for two different crimes. After his arrest, the state of Ohio didn’t prosecute Clemons for the 2009 gun crime, but for an unrelated escape case that also occurred in August 2009. Clemons pled guilty to the escape charge and served one year behind bars.

In March 2011, on the day Clemons was to be released from prison, he was prosecuted for the gun crime and went to court nearly 20 months after the date of the alleged offense. After posting bail, Clemons didn’t appear for a scheduled arraignment in April 2011. Clemons was ultimately arrested again in July 2012. In March 2013, Clemons filed and was granted a motion to dismiss the case with the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

The state appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, and in November 2013 the appeals court unanimously reversed the trial court’s ruling. The Eighth District concluded, based on State v. Copeland (2008), the “right to a speedy trial does not arise until a person has been ‘accused’ of a crime,” and “Similarly, the Ohio Supreme Court held that where the defendant is not subjected to any official prosecution, a delay between the offense and the commencement of prosecution is not protected by the speedy trial guarantee contained in Section 10, Article 1 of the Ohio Constitution. State v. Luck, … (1984).”

The appeals court went on, “Arguably, the state mishandled Clemons’s case in failing to discover the outstanding warrant when they arrested him in the unrelated charges…. However, because Clemons failed to present evidence of substantial prejudice, the state has no burden of producing evidence of a justifiable reason for the 20-month preindictment delay.”

Clemons appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to consider the issue.

Clemons’s Arguments
Attorneys for Clemons contend that the appeals court decision is inconsistent with the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling in State v. Selvage (1997), in which the court held that a defendant’s constitutional speedy trial rights begin to run with the filing of a criminal complaint. Clemons’s attorneys assert that the right to a speedy trial is guaranteed to all criminal defendants by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. They ask the Supreme Court justices to affirm the trial court decision by dismissing Clemons’s indictment and adhering to its own precedent.

State’s Position
Attorneys from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office contend Clemons’s speedy trial rights didn’t begin until he was indicted in March 2011, and therefore those rights weren’t violated. They argue the fact that Clemons eluded police for so many months after failing to appear for a scheduled arraignment in April 2011 contributed to prosecution delays.

They also maintain that Clemons didn’t claim his statutory speedy trial rights were violated until appealing to the Supreme Court, so he cannot now argue that his rights “commenced upon the filing of a municipal complaint.” 

The Ohio Supreme Court initially denied jurisdiction of this appeal on May 14, 2014, but granted his motion for reconsideration on July 9, 2014.

- Jenna Gant

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Marlon Clemons: Cullen Sweeney, 216.443.3660

Representing the State of Ohio from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office: Tracy Regas, 216.443.7800

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Does 2003 Amendment to Wrongful Imprisonment Statute Apply to Cases Filed Before That Year?

Dale N. Johnston v. State of Ohio, Case no. 2014-0530
Tenth District Court of Appeals (Franklin County)


  • Was the wrongful imprisonment statute retroactive at the time it was enacted in 1986 and in the following years?
  • Was former prisoner prohibited from filing a second wrongful imprisonment claim based on errors in procedure, which was added to the statute in 2003?

Annette Johnston and her fiancé, Todd Schultz, were murdered in October 1982 near Logan. A year later, Dale N. Johnston, Annette’s stepfather, was arrested for the murders. In 1984, Johnston was found guilty by a three-judge panel of the aggravated murders and sentenced to death.

He appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, which reversed his convictions and returned the case to the lower court for a new trial. The appeals court concluded that the trial court improperly allowed witness testimony elicited through unreliable hypnosis techniques and that the prosecution withheld evidence about another possible suspect from the defense. On appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the Fourth District.

At the new trial, held in Franklin County, the court barred the witness’s hypnosis-based testimony and suppressed Johnston’s boots as evidence. As a result, the prosecutors told the court on May 11, 1990, that it wouldn’t proceed with the case, and the court dismissed it. Johnston was released that night.

Johnston filed a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit later that year against the state. In 1993, the common pleas court rejected his claims, finding that he didn’t meet the fifth prong of the wrongful imprisonment statute requiring him to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he didn’t commit the murders.

The Ohio legislature then added a new provision to the wrongful imprisonment law in 2003. The amendment gave a claimant the option to assert an error in procedure instead of actual innocence.

In December 2008, another man, Chester McKnight, pled guilty to the murders of Johnston’s stepdaughter and Schultz, and an accomplice also pled guilty to a charge related to the murders.

Dale Johnston filed another wrongful imprisonment lawsuit with the common pleas court in Franklin County. The court granted summary judgment to Johnston and formally declared on Nov. 13, 2012, that he had been wrongfully imprisoned. This declaration by a common pleas court is the first of two steps in a wrongful imprisonment action. Once the declaration is received, the claimant can then sue the state in Ohio’s Court of Claims.

However, the state appealed the common pleas court’s ruling, and the Tenth District Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision. Johnston appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to consider the issues.

Johnston’s Assertions
Ohio’s wrongful imprisonment law, R.C. 2743.48, went into effect on September 24, 1986. According to the statute’s language, it applied to individuals charged “prior to, or on or after the effective date of this section” who meet certain criteria, attorneys for Johnston note. They contend that the statute has always been applied retroactively since its enactment until well after Johnston filed his second wrongful imprisonment claim in common pleas court in 2008 and refiled it in 2011.

They also argue that the 2003 amendment adding errors in procedure to the criteria created a new cause of action and an alternative way to be declared a wrongfully imprisoned individual. And the uncodified language in the 2003 legislation doesn’t alter this view, they maintain. That language states that the amendments “apply to civil actions for wrongful imprisonment in the court of claims commenced on or after the effective date of this act, or commenced prior to and pending on the effective date of this act.”

In 2012, the Franklin County court approved the first step in Johnston’s new wrongful imprisonment claim. He hasn’t yet filed his suit with the court of claims because this appeal is pending, so his civil action will be filed with the court of claims after 2003, which meets the statute’s requirements, his attorneys assert.

They also contend that a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit isn’t barred by “claim preclusion.” Johnston cannot make this claim if it arose out of the “common nucleus of operative facts” or occurrence that was the subject matter of the earlier action. His attorneys argue that the error in procedure option hadn’t yet been established at the time of his 1990s suit and that the facts to make this claim aren’t the same nucleus as the ones presented in his prior lawsuit. It also would be unjust for claim preclusion to be used by the state to shield it from its misdeeds in this case, they conclude.

State’s Contentions
Attorneys for the state respond that that 1993 judgment in Johnston’s wrongful imprisonment lawsuit was final and cannot be relitigated. The 2003 amendments to the wrongful imprisonment law don’t “retroactively rejuvenate” Johnston’s earlier wrongful imprisonment claims that failed in court, they contend in the brief to the court.

They claim that the 2003 amendments are intended to apply prospectively, and therefore don’t apply to the case that Johnston lost in the 1990s. They argue that, with few exceptions, the legislature cannot undo a court’s judgment, so the 2003 amendments cannot be applied retroactively to Johnston’s claims.

They also assert that the principle of claim preclusion prohibits Johnston from pursuing this new claim. The latest claim is based on the same facts, they maintain. Johnston’s 2012 lawsuit presents a different legal theory based on a claim of error in procedure, but his lawsuits both stem from the same facts, an approach that isn’t legally permitted, they argue.

They quote the Ohio Supreme Court’s 1995 decision in Grava v. Parkman Twp., which states, “The instability that would follow the establishment of a precedent for disregarding the doctrine of res judicata for ‘equitable’ reasons would be greater than the benefit that might result from relieving some cases of individual hardship.”

In the state’s view, the Ohio Supreme Court can decide this case based on its 2014 decision in Mansaray v. State, in which the court held that procedural errors asserted in wrongful imprisonment actions must occur after sentencing. They maintain that the errors in Johnston’s case happened at trial, before his sentencing.

Johnston’s attorneys counter that the prosecutors in his case withheld multiple witness statements and evidence suggesting another suspect before, during, and after his trial, after his sentencing, and while he was in prison. Mansaray doesn’t bar Johnston’s lawsuit, they conclude.

- Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Dale N. Johnston: Todd Long, 614.454.5010

Representing the State of Ohio from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office: Eric Murphy, 614.466.8980

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Are Vehicle Lessees Who Didn’t Appeal Traffic-Camera Tickets Prohibited from Filing Class Action?

City of Cleveland v. Janine Lycan et al., Case no. 2014-0358
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

ISSUE: Are individuals who received citations for traffic violations recorded by Cleveland’s automated camera system and who didn’t appeal their citations barred by res judicata from later filing a class-action lawsuit that the city was unjustly enriched by the citations?

The city of Cleveland enacted a law in 2005 authorizing the use of automated traffic cameras to capture red-light and speeding violations. Drivers may appeal the ticket and $100 civil penalty through an administrative hearing process within the city’s parking violations bureau and pursue further appeals through the common pleas court.

In August 2006, Janine Lycan’s vehicle was photographed speeding. A few weeks later, Lycan, who leased her vehicle, received a citation. She paid the $100 fine and didn’t request a hearing.

Lycan filed a lawsuit against the city in February 2009, arguing the city had no authority to fine vehicle lessees for alleged traffic violations.

Near this time, the Eighth District Court of Appeals decided Dickson & Campbell, L.L.C. v. Cleveland. In that case, a law firm challenged two tickets for speeding caught by the cameras. The car captured on camera was leased, rather than owned, by the firm.

The city’s ordinance stated, “This civil enforcement system imposes monetary liability on the owner of a vehicle for failure of an operator to stop at a traffic signal displaying a steady red light indication or for the failure of an operator to comply with a speed limitation.”

The law firm argued the law applied only to the vehicle’s owner, not lessees. While the administrative hearing officers and the common pleas court upheld the citations, the Eighth District ruled that the ordinance’s language doesn’t apply to vehicle lessees. The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear the city’s appeal of this case.

The city then amended its law to allow citations and fines against lessees and other non-owners as well as owners. That change took effect March 11, 2009.

In May 2009, Lycan asked the common pleas court to certify a class and added several parties to her lawsuit – Lindsey Charna, Ken Fogle, John T. Murphy, Thomas Pavlish, and Jeanne Task. However, the court denied class certification, and Lycan and the other parties appealed to the Eighth District. The appellate court reversed in 2010. After the Ohio Supreme Court refused to consider the city’s appeal in this case, it returned to the trial court.

In February 2013, the trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the lessees who had received citations, and the judge certified the class. The group was defined as non-owners of vehicles who had been cited by Cleveland between the effective date of the ordinance (July 20, 2005) and the date the city amended the law in 2009. The city appealed to the Eighth District, which upheld the lower court decision. The city then filed this appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

City’s Arguments
The ordinance’s appeals provision states, “A notice of appeal shall be filed with the Hearing Officer within twenty-one (21) days from the date listed on the ticket. The failure to give notice of appeal or pay the civil penalty within this time period shall constitute a waiver of the right to contest the ticket and shall be considered an admission.”

Attorneys for the city of Cleveland contend that because the lessees paid their fines, they waived their right to contest the tickets. If the lessees wanted to dispute the tickets, they had an adequate remedy through the administrative hearing process, the city’s attorneys assert.

By failing to use the available appeals process, the lessees were prohibited by the legal principle of res judicata from filing a lawsuit, they argue. They point to a 2013 federal court decision involving a similar claim out of Cleveland. In Carroll v. Cleveland, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that two vehicle lessees challenging their traffic tickets lost the opportunity to file a lawsuit because, unlike the law firm in Dickson & Campbell, they paid their fines instead of appealing the citations. The Carroll court stated that when “a valid, final judgment” is made on the merits, all subsequent actions on the subject matter are prohibited by res judicata.

The city’s attorneys maintain that the legal principle applies to decisions made by administrative agencies when no appeal is made. The lessees’ payment of the fines qualifies as a final judgment, they argue.

“[Lycan and the class] seek to circumvent the appeals process clearly outlined within C.C.O. 413.031(k), and instead filed a class action lawsuit in the court of common pleas,” they conclude in the city’s brief. “This is in violation of the ordinance, and without merit, because [they] have already waived their right to appeal.”

Assertions from Lessees
Attorneys for the group of lessees counter that the necessary final judgment on the merits of their cases hasn’t been made because the lessees didn’t pursue hearings. They assert that the Carroll court misconstrued Ohio law by viewing the payment of penalties as a waiver of the lessees’ right to file a lawsuit contesting the citations. They argue that there must be actual litigation resulting in a final judgment before res judicata can apply.

They maintain that the ordinance’s appeals section states that “the failure to … pay the civil penalty” in 21 days waives the right to contest a ticket and an admission. However, it doesn’t state that paying the fines is also a waiver or an admission of wrongdoing, they contend. By paying the fines, the lessees avoided the waiver, and “[t]heir right to an equitable recovery in a court of law thus remains intact,” the lessees’ attorneys write in the brief to the court.

They assert that the rule that administrative reviews must be exhausted before any litigation can begin is limited and doesn’t apply in this case. They argue it would be unconstitutional for a city to prevent parties from filing legal complaints simply by creating a separate administrative hearing process. This view would improperly immunize local governments from all class actions, they claim.

In addition, no evidence shows that the city’s hearing officers would have ever overturned a citation on the grounds that the city had overreached by applying the ordinance to non-owner operators, they maintain. In fact, they argue, there is evidence to the contrary. They note that one of the administrators in the parking violations bureau testified in a deposition that they were instructed to issue citations to vehicle lessees and other non-owners, while knowing that the non-owners weren’t included in the law.

“Consequently it was no defense during that period that the vehicle had been leased or rented,” the lessees’ attorneys argue. “Anyone attempting to challenge the legality of the citation on this basis was destined to [lose].”

They quote a 2014 Eighth District ruling involving the state workers’ compensation bureau that states, “Where an administrative agency has no power to afford the relief sought or an administrative appeal would otherwise be futile, exhaustion of administrative remedies is not a prerequisite to seeking judicial relief.”

Additional Briefs
Amicus curiae briefs supporting the position of the City of Cleveland have been submitted by:

  • City of Toledo
  • Ohio Municipal League
  • Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc.
  • Village of Elmwood Place
  • Xerox State & Local Solutions, Inc.

The following have filed amicus briefs in support of Janine Lycan and the class of vehicle lessees:

  • Michael K. Allen
  • Bradley L. Walker and Sam Jodka

- Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing the City of Cleveland: Gary Singletary, 216.664.2737

Representing Janine Lycan et al.: Paul Flowers, 216.344.9393

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These informal previews are prepared by the Supreme Court's Office of Public Information to provide the news media and other interested persons with a brief overview of the legal issues and arguments advanced by the parties in upcoming cases scheduled for oral argument. The previews are not part of the case record, and are not considered by the Court during its deliberations.

Parties interested in receiving additional information are encouraged to review the case file available in the Supreme Court Clerk's Office (614.387.9530), or to contact counsel of record.