Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Disciplinary Counsel v. Mark S. Bennett, Case No. 2023-0471
Cuyahoga County

State of Ohio ex rel. Dave Yost, Ohio attorney general v. FirstEnergy Corp., Samuel C. Randazzo and Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio, Inc. et al., Case No. 2022-1286
Tenth District Court of Appeals (Franklin County)

Disciplinary Counsel v. Tracie M. Hunter, Case No. 2023-0472
Hamilton County

State of Ohio v. Jamie Toran, Case No. 2022-1203
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

Attorney Who Sexually Harassed Intern Argues for Stay of Recommended Sanction

Disciplinary Counsel v. Mark S. Bennett, Case No. 2023-0471
Cuyahoga County

A former federal prosecutor in northern Ohio faces a six-month suspension from the practice of law because he sexually harassed a law student intern over 16 months.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel and attorney Mark Bennett had agreed to a stayed six-month suspension. However, the Board of Professional Conduct recommends an actual timeout from the practice of law for Bennett. The board report notes that Bennett used his prestigious professional position to pressure the 24-year-old intern, aware that he could have significant influence over her future career.

Bennett objects to the change in the recommended sanction. Because of his objections, the Supreme Court of Ohio will hear the disciplinary matter during oral arguments.

Attorney Makes Sexual Advances Toward Law Student Intern
Bennett worked as an assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. He worked primarily in the Cleveland and Akron offices. A woman identified as J.S., who was a second-year law student, started an internship in the office in May 2017.

Bennett acknowledged that he discussed his marital sex life with J.S. and suggested he and the intern could be sexual partners. Bennett offered to buy clothes for J.S. He asked her to send him nude photos of herself on Snapchat and contacted her on Facebook and by text message. J.S. eventually blocked Bennett on those forums and pretended to him that she didn’t know why he couldn’t reach her in those ways. She also said the attorney intentionally touched her breasts when reaching across her for a book in the library of the Akron office. Her internship was completed at the end of 2017.

J.S. was interested in returning to work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2018. She asked Bennett who to contact. He asked what she was willing to do to get another internship. Believing the question had sexual overtones, she stopped discussing jobs with him.

She rejoined the office as an intern in 2018 but requested assignment in the Youngstown office to avoid Bennett, who primarily worked in the Akron and Cleveland offices. In early 2019, she asked Bennett for a recommendation letter for a clerkship. He asked what he would get in exchange. J.S. instead asked other attorneys for recommendations.

J.S. told a colleague about Bennett’s behavior. The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation. J.S. stated that she didn’t report Bennett because she believed she had to deal with that type of behavior to avoid harming her career. Bennett said he didn’t realize how offensive his actions were to J.S. and admitted his behavior was inappropriate.

After the investigation, Bennett believed he would be fired, so he resigned. He reported his misconduct to the disciplinary counsel, which investigated the matter.

Attorney Seeks Counseling, Expresses Regret in Disciplinary Hearing
The board report notes that Bennett voluntarily began mental health treatment. In the disciplinary hearing, he expressed remorse for his behavior and said counseling has helped him understand appropriate professional boundaries. His treatment provider agreed, noting his progress.

The panel of the board that heard the case found that Bennett violated the rule prohibiting conduct that adversely reflects on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law. In considering the suspension agreed to by Bennett and the disciplinary counsel, the panel reviewed the disciplinary cases the parties cited as well as other case law determined to be relevant, including several involving attorney misconduct with clients. The report emphasized Bennett’s “potential to sway the future of J.S.’s career” through his connections and his recommendations.

The panel concluded that a six-month actual suspension was necessary and that Bennett should present proof of continued mental health counseling as a condition for being reinstated to practicing law. The board agreed with the panel’s findings and recommended sanction.

Attorney Points to Other Disciplinary Cases That Support No Time Away From Law
Bennett maintains that the disciplinary decisions relied on by him and the disciplinary counsel support a fully stayed suspension. He thinks the board was mistaken in considering disciplinary cases involving inappropriate sexual relationships between attorneys and clients. Whether a client’s interests can be protected by an attorney when there’s an improper relationship creates potential legal consequences that are more serious than the misconduct of an attorney with a legal intern, Bennett argues.

If the Supreme Court disagrees, however, Bennett highlights six cases about attorney misconduct with clients that he believes also support a stayed suspension. The purpose of the disciplinary process is not to punish the offender but to protect the public. Pointing to his ongoing mental health counseling and his counselor’s favorable statements regarding his progress, including that he is unlikely to repeat his misconduct and currently could practice law ethically and competently, Bennett maintains that a stayed six-month suspension is appropriate.

Disciplinary Counsel Says Abuse of Position Supports Actual Timeout
The disciplinary counsel dismisses Bennett’s concern that the board relied on cases involving attorney sexual misconduct with clients. The Supreme Court has frequently made the same comparison, and such cases can be considered, the disciplinary counsel notes.

The disciplinary counsel states that Barrett also ignored the context in some of the cases that led to stayed sanctions. The circumstances either didn’t involve the coercion present in this case, weren’t as repeated or intrusive, or didn’t turn on a similar power imbalance, the disciplinary counsel contends. Because Bennett’s misconduct was an abuse of his authority and more egregious than the misconduct in the cases in which a suspension was fully stayed, the board’s recommendation to impose an actual suspension was reasonable, the disciplinary counsel concludes.

Kathleen Maloney

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

Representing Mark S. Bennett: Richard Koblentz,

Representing the Office of Disciplinary Counsel: Joseph Caligiuri,

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Did State Properly Take Property of Former PUCO Chair?

State of Ohio ex rel. Dave Yost, Ohio attorney general v. FirstEnergy Corp., Samuel C. Randazzo and Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio, Inc. et al., Case No. 2022-1286
Tenth District Court of Appeals (Franklin County)


  • To support an order to take and hold property while a civil lawsuit is pending, must a trial court only find probable cause of a present danger that property is going to be immediately disposed of, concealed, or placed beyond the jurisdiction of the court?
  • Can an appellate court review evidence submitted at a trial court hearing that wasn’t available at an earlier hearing conducted without notice to the defendant?
  • What amount can be garnished in a court order to take property?

This appeal is related to the House Bill 6 scandal and public corruption case in federal court stemming from steps taken to pass the legislation. H.B. 6 included a $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout of two nuclear plants operated by a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., which owns several public utilities providing electricity in Ohio.

In this case, the Supreme Court of Ohio will only be considering legal issues about the Ohio attorney general’s efforts to hold property and assets of the former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) during an ongoing lawsuit in state court.

In September 2020, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a civil case against FirstEnergy Corp. and others under the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act.

The next month, FirstEnergy fired its CEO and the senior vice president of external affairs. The attorney general’s brief states that FirstEnergy connected the firings to a questionable payment made to “an entity associated with an individual who subsequently was appointed to a full-time role as an Ohio government official directly involved in regulating the Ohio Companies, including with respect to distribution rates.” The attorney general identifies that person as Samuel Randazzo, then chair of the PUCO. Randazzo was appointed by the governor in February 2019 to be a PUCO commissioner and he was then named chair of the commission.

In November 2020, the FBI raided one of Randazzo’s homes. He resigned from the PUCO a few days later. The attorney general maintains that in the months after the FBI raid, Randazzo gifted a house worth $500,000 to his son and sold other residences in Columbus, Akron, and Naples.

Energy Company Enters Agreement With Federal Prosecutors
The following July, FirstEnergy Corp. faced a conspiracy charge in federal court and entered into a “deferred prosecution agreement.” The agreement protects the company from federal prosecution if certain conditions are met.

Soon after, the Ohio attorney general amended the state’s civil complaint in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to add Randazzo and his company Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio as defendants. The attorney general’s brief in this case maintains that FirstEnergy paid $4.3 million to Randazzo through his company as part of a plan that included getting Randazzo named the PUCO chair so he could exert his influence on FirstEnergy’s behalf at the commission and also help to shape legislation. Randazzo’s attorneys counter that the deferred prosecution agreement is “evidence of nothing.” Randazzo has not been charged with a crime.

The attorney general filed a request in court for a “prejudgment attachment” on Randazzo’s property. A prejudgment attachment allows property to be taken and held during a civil lawsuit before the court has ruled in the case. The attorney general filed the attachment motion ex parte – meaning, without notifying Randazzo.

A court can approve an attachment order on property without notifying the defendant or holding a hearing if, as R.C. 2715.045 states, “there is probable cause to support the motion and that the plaintiff … will suffer irreparable injury if the order is delayed until the defendant … has been given the opportunity for a hearing.” The attorney general maintains that Randazzo’s property sales generated nearly $5 million. The money was placed in a brokerage account where the funds could be wire transferred anywhere in the world, the attorney general cautioned.

To obtain the ex parte order, the attorney general had to prove that the state would suffer “irreparable injury” if either:

  • “[t]here is present danger that the property will be immediately disposed of, concealed, or placed beyond the jurisdiction of the court,” or
  • “[t]he value of the property will be impaired substantially if the issuance of an order of attachment is delayed.”

The trial court decided to hold a hearing, although not required, and approved the attachment order.

Randazzo’s brief states that the attorney general then issued garnishments of Randazzo’s accounts with Charles Schwab, Huntington Bank, and JP Morgan Chase. Schwab notified Randazzo that he no longer had access to his IRA account. The checking account for Sustainability Funding Alliance was seized and the money was transferred to the clerk of courts, according to Randazzo’s brief.

Former PUCO Chair Asks Court to Overturn Orders
After learning of the orders, Randazzo filed a motion asking that the trial court vacate them. The attorney general submitted additional information stating that Randazzo had transferred $2.5 million to attorneys in California and $500,000 to an IOLTA account with Ohio attorneys. The trial court held a hearing, then denied Randazzo’s request. The court stated that garnishment was the correct way to secure the property given the liquid nature of Randazzo’s assets.

Randazzo appealed to the Tenth District Court of Appeals. The appeals court vacated the orders. It determined that the trial court’s reasoning process wasn’t sound in concluding that the state would suffer irreparable injury if the orders were delayed until Randazzo was given the opportunity for a hearing. The court also invalidated the state’s garnishments.

The attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which accepted the case.

State Contends Defendant Taking Steps to Shield Assets
The attorney general maintains that Randazzo couldn’t appeal the orders because there is no right to appeal an ex parte attachment order. Without the jurisdiction to consider the appeal, the Tenth District couldn’t consider whether the facts were sufficient for the trial court to issue the orders, the attorney general asserts.

Even if the Tenth District can review an ex parte order, the facts in this case support the trial court’s decision, the attorney general argues. The attorney general contends that the “present danger” was clear because Randazzo was selling real estate and gifting a house after being sufficiently identified in the deferred prosecution agreement as having been paid a $4.3 million bribe. The attorney general’s brief states that the Tenth District’s reading “ignores all signs of the defendant positioning himself to immediately move property beyond the State’s reach.”

The Tenth District also incorrectly determined that the state couldn’t submit additional evidence at the later hearing to consider Randazzo’s request to vacate the orders. The attorney general contends it was appropriate to add evidence of Randazzo’s transfers of $3 million to attorneys. That information only strengthened the state’s concerns about the “present danger” of Randazzo concealing assets and the need for the attachment orders, the attorney general maintains.

The attorney general also maintains that the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act states that Randazzo may be liable for damages up to three times the $4.3 million he allegedly received. The trial court determined that a garnishment of $8 million of Randazzo’s assets was appropriate. The $8 million figure is much less than the $12.9 million that Randazzo could owe under just one count in the civil lawsuit, the attorney general argues. The state also maintains that the garnishments were proper under the law.

Former PUCO Chair Contests State’s Actions in Lawsuit
Randazzo counters that the ex parte orders can be appealed. State law doesn’t limit the right to appeal attachment orders, regardless of whether they were obtained ex parte or not, he asserts. He contends that because an attachment order obtained ex parte violates due process and causes serious harm, there must be a right to appeal.

He also argues that the attorney general didn’t show that the state would have suffered irreparable injury if notice and an opportunity to be heard had been provided to him. Randazzo questions how he could have been shielding assets by selling property before the attorney general had even named him in the civil lawsuit. Statutes and the state and federal constitutions, which protect property rights, guide the proper use of ex parte attachment orders, states Randazzo’s brief, which notes that the requirements are strictly enforced by “judicial gatekeepers” The brief adds, “When one party is not given the chance to respond to the baseless claims of the other, a court is significantly more likely to err.”

Randazzo maintains that the hearing held after the initial ex parte orders were approved wasn’t an evidentiary hearing, so the attorney general wasn’t allowed to submit more evidence. The hearing addressed only the motion to vacate the orders, Randazzo argues. He notes that no witnesses testified and no exhibits were presented. The attorney general couldn’t bolster its arguments for the orders taking property by submitting “after-the-fact ‘evidence,’” Randazzo maintains.

Randazzo contends that the attorney general’s affidavit in the initial filing claimed without support that $4.3 million is owed to the state. But the attachment order allowed the seizure of $8 million in property, he notes. Randazzo argues that the amount must be tied to a claim for injury to person or property, but the attorney general doesn’t connect either amount to injuries to people, ratepayers, property, or the state. Because the attachment orders were improper, then the garnishments that followed are also improper, Randazzo concludes.

Other Named Parties Won’t Argue
Numerous other parties named in the attorney general’s lawsuit didn’t file briefs and will not be permitted to argue before the Supreme Court in this case. They include FirstEnergy Corp. and other FirstEnergy entities; former FirstEnergy executives Charles Jones and Michael Dowling; Jeff Longstreth and Generation Now; Juan Cespedes; former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder; and Matt Borges and 17 Consulting Group.

Kathleen Maloney

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

Representing Dave Yost, Ohio attorney general: Benjamin Flowers,

Representing Samuel C. Randazzo and Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio, Inc.: Roger Sugarman,

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Juvenile Judge Convicted of Felony Contests Proposed Suspension

Disciplinary Counsel v. Tracie M. Hunter, Case No. 2023-0472
Hamilton County

Former Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter was convicted in 2014 of a felony and served a jail sentence. She now contests a proposed indefinite suspension from the practice of law based on the conviction, which she is still challenging.

The Board of Professional Conduct has recommended to the Supreme Court of Ohio that Hunter be indefinitely suspended and given credit for time served during an interim suspension. Hunter has been suspended since October 2014, the month in which she was convicted of having unlawful interest in a public contract.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel charged Hunter with violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and stated that every judge who committed a felony while in office was either disbarred or indefinitely suspended. The disciplinary counsel said it delayed filing charges against Hunter with the board for eight years, until both state and federal courts rejected appeals of Hunter’s conviction.

The disciplinary counsel argues the indefinite suspension is appropriate for Hunter’s actions. Hunter counters that she didn’t violate the law though she was convicted and that the board received no proof during the disciplinary proceedings that she broke any conduct rules. Hunter’s objection to the board recommendation triggered an oral argument before the Supreme Court.

Judge Convicted After Intervening in Brother’s Job Termination
Hunter was indicted on eight counts for crimes committed while serving as a judge in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. She was convicted of one count, a violation of R.C. 2921.42(A)(1), for having an unlawful interest in a public contract. The charge stemmed from her involvement in the termination proceedings of her brother, Steven Hunter, an employee of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Center.

Steven Hunter was a juvenile corrections officer. In July 2013, he was alleged to have hit a youth during a response to an incident in the center. The center’s superintendent recommended that Steven Hunter be fired, and a hearing was scheduled.

After Steven Hunter was informed of the hearing, Tracie Hunter then requested a number of documents from the superintendent and his staff. She asked for information regarding incidents at the youth center and what actions had been taken by other corrections officers involved in physical encounters with juveniles. Steven Hunter said his sister gave him documents to prepare for his hearing and he presented those to his lawyer. The lawyer, in turn, refused some of the documents, stating it would be “unethical” to accept them.

Steven Hunter was eventually fired. He said he wasn’t interested in keeping his job, but participated in the termination hearing to clear his name. Based on the testimony related to Hunter’s consultation with her brother, the jury found Tracie Hunter guilty of having an unlawful interest in a public contract. The judge declared a mistrial on all the remaining charges, and the prosecutor announced the state would not seek to retry Tracie Hunter on the other counts.

Judge Convicted, Disciplined for Her Actions
Tracie Hunter was sentenced to six months in jail and one year of probation for the crime. She was also ordered to pay more than $34,000 in court costs. She appealed her sentence to the First District Court of Appeals, and the trial court agreed to stay the imposition of her sentence until her appeal was resolved.

In 2016, the First District affirmed her conviction. Hunter appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which declined to consider her case. Meanwhile, she filed a federal lawsuit to overturn her conviction. In 2022, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her federal appeal. Through another challenge, Hunter was able to prompt the trial court to reduce her court costs to $17,274.

Hunter was sent to jail in July 2019 and released in October 2019, receiving a reduced amount of time in custody after completing a court-ordered work program. She completed her probation in 2020.

All of the ethics charges against Hunter are based on the criminal conviction. A three-member panel of the Board of Professional Conduct conducted a hearing and found Hunter violated five ethics rules, including the requirement that a judge comply with the law. The panel found, and the full board agreed, that Hunter also failed to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary, abused the prestige of the office to advance personal or economic interests, permitted family interests to influence her judicial conduct, and used nonpublic information for a purpose unrelated to her judicial duties.

Former Judge Denies Wrongdoing
Hunter claims that her conviction is the result of a vendetta by the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office because she filed ethics complaints in 2013 against the prosecutor and assistant prosecutors. She argued they failed to adequately represent her in legal actions she faced as a juvenile judge. She maintains the charges against her were politically and racially motivated because she was the first African American and Democratic judge elected to the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

At her disciplinary hearing, Hunter maintained that there was no evidence that she violated R.C. 2921.42. She asserts that her brother’s attorney never identified a single record provided to her from Hunter that would have been illegal or unethical to share. Pressed at the hearing by the disciplinary counsel, Hunter acknowledged that a jury convicted her of the crime, and that numerous courts have upheld that conviction. However, Hunter counters that doesn’t mean there is evidence to actually prove she broke the law or any ethics rule.

Hunter also objects to the board’s finding that she is unwilling to acknowledge the wrongfulness of her actions. She notes that she has filed a request for postconviction relief to continue to try to overturn her conviction, which is still pending, and that it is unfair to sanction her for contesting the charge when she is innocent.

Former Judge’s Acts Warrant Suspension, Disciplinary Counsel Maintains
The disciplinary counsel disputes Hunter’s contention that no evidence was submitted to convict her. The disciplinary counsel notes that a federal court judge reviewing her appeal concluded “there was strong evidence supporting her conviction.”

The disciplinary counsel asserts that Hunter abused her position as a judge and committed a felony while attempting to protect her brother’s employment. She used her position to obtain documents, and her actions resulted in having an unlawful interest in a public contract. Every reviewing court has reached the same conclusion, the office notes. The disciplinary counsel argues that there is no evidence that Hunter was denied a fair disciplinary proceeding and clear evidence that she violated the five ethics rules.

Dan Trevas

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

Tracie M. Hunter, representing herself,

Representing the Office of Disciplinary Counsel: Joseph Caligiuri,

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Was Search of Truck During Traffic Stop Legal?

State of Ohio v. Jamie Toran, Case No. 2022-1203
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

ISSUE: Is the inventory search of a vehicle reasonable when the state doesn’t present law enforcement’s written inventory search policy at a hearing to suppress evidence or the law enforcement officer doesn’t testify about the policy details?

In October 2019, a deputy with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department stopped a pickup truck in Lincoln Heights. The truck was driven by Jamie Toran. The deputy said the temporary license placard on the truck was obscured, and window tint made it unreadable.

During the stop, the deputy found that Toran had not had a valid driver’s license for three years. The deputy cited Toran for driving under suspension and improper display of a temporary license. Because Toran couldn’t legally drive, the deputy arranged for the truck to be towed and impounded. Before the tow, the deputy conducted an inventory search and discovered a loaded handgun in the passenger-side door panel. Toran was arrested. Toran’s mother, who was the registered owner of the vehicle, had arrived at the location but wasn’t permitted to take the truck.

Driver Disputes Reasons for Search of Truck
Toran asked the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court to suppress the evidence found during the search. He argued in part that the truck was legally parked, his mother could have moved the truck, and it didn’t need to be towed or impounded. The search of the truck violated his protections in the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures, Toran maintained.

The trial court disagreed, concluding that the search and impoundment were reasonable. In June 2021, Toran pled no contest to carrying a concealed weapon, improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle, and illegally having a weapon. He was sentenced to five years of community control.

Toran appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, contending that the traffic stop and inventory search were unconstitutional. The First District found the stop was valid but the evidence from the search should have been excluded. The appeals court concluded that the inventory search was unreasonable because the deputy didn’t testify about the sheriff’s department inventory search policy and the policy wasn’t submitted as evidence.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to review the issue.

State Maintains Truck Had to Be Towed, Search Was Justified
The Fourth Amendment requires a warrant before law enforcement can conduct a search, but there are exceptions. The prosecutor notes that one established exception is for an inventory search of a vehicle. The purpose of an inventory search is to record what is found in a vehicle to protect the owner’s property while in police custody, to protect police from dangerous items, and to protect police from claims of lost, stolen, or damaged property.

The prosecutor maintains that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a routine inventory search of a vehicle is reasonable if the vehicle is impounded legally, the search is conducted according to police policy, and the search isn’t conducted as a pretext to look for incriminating evidence.

The deputy testified in court that the truck was towed because Toran had no valid driver’s license for three years, had multiple driving suspensions, and had been pulled over recently in the same truck by another agency. The prosecutor notes the deputy also testified that the department policy in these circumstances is to conduct an inventory search of a vehicle. The trial court found that the department had a policy for inventory searches, the deputy conducted a proper search, and the search wasn’t conducted as a pretext. Although the department policy for inventory searches wasn’t introduced as evidence, the deputy’s testimony was sufficient to establish that he acted according to department policy, the prosecutor argues.

The application of the Supreme Court of Ohio ruling in State v. Leak (2016) is debated in this case. The prosecutor contends that the Court determined that if an impoundment is not legal, then testimony about police policies isn’t enough to prove a search was reasonable, the prosecutor notes. That is different from this case because the impoundment of the truck was legal, the prosecutor maintains.

The prosecutor asserts there was no police misconduct, the deputy acted in good faith , and his conduct was in accordance with his department’s policy. Suppressing the evidence found during the search is unwarranted, the prosecutor concludes.

Driver Argues Impoundment Not Needed, Search Not Legal
Toran counters that it was illegal to impound the truck. He notes that state law allows impoundment if a vehicle is left on the street for 48 hours or longer without notification to law enforcement. Or, if a vehicle is obstructing traffic, it can be removed immediately if it was involved in an accident or is a commercial vehicle. Toran argues none of those criteria applied to the truck.

Vehicles also can be taken into police custody in the interest of public safety or community caretaking, according to case precedent . However, Toran notes, the truck was parked legally on the side of a residential street and wasn’t impeding traffic flow. He contends there was no justification for impounding the truck.

He also notes that he called his mother four minutes after he was stopped. She arrived at the location before the truck was towed, and she offered to move it. As in Leak, there was another person who could have legally moved the vehicle, so an inventory search was unreasonable, Toran asserts.

In recordings of the stop, the deputy says that the truck was impounded because of the arrest after finding the gun, Toran notes. Yet at other points the deputy says it’s because of the lack of a valid driver’s license. Toran contends that the contradictory statements indicate the deputy wasn’t following a standardized department policy.

Toran argues Ohio courts have found inventory searches are reasonable not based on an officer’s testimony, but when evidence is presented of the law enforcement agency’s inventory search policy – usually a written policy or at least consistent references in testimony to department policies. A standardized policy gives law enforcement officers clear guidance about when an inventory search is permissible and prevents drivers from being treated differently, Toran contends. He maintains the search of the truck wasn’t made in accordance with established sheriff’s department policy, and the evidence found from the search should be excluded.

Public Defenders Submit Brief
An amicus curiae brief supporting Toran’s arguments was filed jointly by the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office, Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office, and Ohio Public Defender’s Office. The Cuyahoga County defender and Toran will split Toran's time during oral arguments.

Kathleen Maloney

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

Representing the State of Ohio from the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office: Philip Cummings,

Representing Jamie Toran: Brian Smith,

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