Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court to Evaluate Whether Creation of Child Pornography Infringes on Free Speech

Among Eight Cases Scheduled for Oral Arguments

Image of a marble monument with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution engraved in it

Meth manufacturing sentences, punitive damages against an estate, and overdue child support are some other issues before the Supreme Court this session.

Image of a marble monument with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution engraved in it

Meth manufacturing sentences, punitive damages against an estate, and overdue child support are some other issues before the Supreme Court this session.

The meaning of “nudity” in the state law prohibiting child pornography will be considered by the Ohio Supreme Court during oral arguments next week. Ohio appeals courts have split on how to interpret the word in cases involving the creation or production of material showing nude minors.

The division is rooted in differing views of the 1988 Ohio Supreme Court decision State v. Young. In the case, the Court reviewed a separate provision that bans possessing or viewing nude images of children. That law permits people to view or possess such images of a minor who isn’t their child only if they have a proper purpose or the written permission of the parents. The Young Court concluded those exceptions narrow the offense to protect innocent conduct, but the law bars material that is a “lewd exhibition or involves a graphic focus on the genitals.”

In the current case, State v. Martin, Dayton resident Terry L. Martin recorded an 11-year-old girl removing her clothes before a shower, drying off afterward, and dressing. He was convicted in 2013 for illegally creating or producing material showing a nude minor. The court sentenced him to five years in prison.

Martin’s attorneys argue the law governing the creation and production of images showing nude children should also be limited to those depictions that are a “lewd exhibition or [involve] a graphic focus on the genitals.” Otherwise, the statute is unconstitutional because it’s too broad, they assert.

The state counters that no First Amendment right to free speech is affected by the law and, as a result, the definition of “nudity” doesn’t need to be narrowed in the provision. Instead, the creation of child pornography is legitimately regulated by the statute, the state maintains.

Oral Arguments
In addition to Martin, the Court will hear three other appeals on Tuesday, Oct. 27 and four cases on Wednesday, Oct. 28. The Court’s session begins at 9 a.m. at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. The arguments will be streamed live online at and broadcast live on The Ohio Channel.

Previews Available
Along with the brief descriptions below, the Office of Public Information today released in-depth previews of the cases.

Cases for Tuesday, Oct. 27

  • A city board of education acquired 154 acres in 2009 to build a new high school and leased a small part of that land to farmers. The question in Talawanda City School District Board of Education v. Testa is whether the leased land is exempt from taxes like the other school property. The school board contends that state law prohibits taxing any property owned by a board of education no matter how the land is used.
  • Sheriff’s deputies discovered the remains of materials used to make the drug methamphetamine on the front porch of a Gallipolis house. The homeowner in Marcum v. State asserts that two friends created the drug there without her permission and contests her 10-year prison term for manufacturing meth near her two children. At issue is what standard the appeals court must use when reviewing the trial court’s sentence.
  • A federal court has submitted American Municipal Power v. Bechtel Power to the Court to determine how state law impacts a contract dispute. The power supplier hired the contractor in 2009 to build a coal-fired power plant in Meigs County, and the contractor estimated the cost at $2.3 billion. But 10 months later, the contractor increased the estimate by $1 billion, and the supplier cancelled the project. The supplier argues a contract provision limiting the contractor’s liability has been negated because the company acted recklessly.

Cases for Wednesday, Oct. 28

  • In Binner v. Whetstone, a Fairfield County woman tried to suffocate one of her niece’s daughters while babysitting. After rescuing her daughter, the mother filed a civil case seeking damages. While the trial court issued a default judgment when the aunt didn’t respond to the lawsuit, the aunt, who had been diagnosed with cancer, later died before the hearing to determine how much she would pay in damages. The estate maintains that punitive damages can be imposed only on the wrongdoer, not on her heirs or beneficiaries.
  • The dispute in Sierra Lobo v. Onderko centers on whether an engineering technician injured his knee while at work. The employee contends he hurt his knee moving a desk and table, while the company maintains he didn’t report the injury as work related to the emergency room, a subsequent doctor, or the employer. After the employee filed a workers’ compensation claim, he was fired. He filed a lawsuit for retaliatory discharge, and the company asserts he hasn’t shown he suffered a workplace injury, which is required for his claim.
  • A Marion County father in State v. Pittman was notified when his two daughters turned 18 that he owed more than $68,000 in back child support. While the father was indicted in 2009 for not paying child support, he stated he didn’t know about the charges until four years later following a background check for a job. He claims the relevant statute applies only to those with a current support obligation, which he no longer has because his daughters are adults.
  • The attorney disciplinary board has found that a Cleveland lawyer practiced law while he was suspended by representing a client in court three times in 2013. The board recommends in Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association v. Pryatel that he never be allowed to practice law again in the state. The attorney argues he wasn’t representing anyone in those proceedings because he didn’t engage in “any advocacy, argument, persuasion, interpretation, analysis, or reference to legal citations.”