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Daily Court Reporter - News Court can move forward on charter school land dispute


Court can move forward on charter school land dispute

Dan Trevas, Supreme Court of Ohio

The Ohio Supreme Court recently clarified that the “jurisdictional priority” rule does not apply to two cases filed in the same division of the same court, and that the case in which a defendant is first properly notified is the case that moves forward.

In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court stated the priority rule applies when two cases are filed in separate courts with “concurrent jurisdiction” but are not the same court. The opinion stated that while some Ohio courts of appeals have considered this issue, this case marks the first time the Court has expressly decided that the rule does not apply to cases filed in the same court.

The decision allows an ownership dispute between two Cleveland landowners in the Hough neighborhood to continue in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court General Division. A separate lawsuit involving the property filed in the court’s general division is now stayed.

Charter School Property in Dispute

In August 2013, Oak Leadership Institute filed an action in common pleas court to quiet a title in a parcel of property adjacent to the charter school it operates on Hough Avenue. The case was assigned to Judge Richard McMonagle. The Consortium for Economic and Community Development for Hough Ward 7 is identified as the owner of the parcel of land.

Consortium in December 2013 was a party to a tax foreclosure lawsuit filed by Cuyahoga County. That lawsuit was assigned to a different common pleas court judge. Consortium sought a writ of prohibition from the Eighth District Court of Appeals to prevent Judge McMonagle from moving forward with Oak Leadership’s quiet title claim.

Consortium maintained that while its lawsuit was filed after Oak Leadership’s, Consortium was first to “perfect” service of process to all the interested parties in the case. It argued that since it was first to adequately notify all the parties, the jurisdictional priority rule allowed its case to move forward, and blocked Oak Leadership’s case from proceeding.

The Eighth District denied the writ. It wrote that a court can move forward with a case once at least one defendant is appropriately notified, and that Oak Leadership accomplished that before Consortium filed its case.

Consortium appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Court agreed to hear the case.

Priority Issues Involves Different Types of Courts

The opinion stated the jurisdictional priority rule provides that between different state courts of concurrent jurisdiction, the court that first invokes its jurisdiction has the power to adjudicate the whole issue and settle all the issues.

The Court cited its 2013 State ex rel. Dunlap v. Sarko decision, in which a person filed cases in both a court of appeals and the Supreme Court seeking a writ of mandamus to compel a township to release public records. The Supreme Court noted both the court of appeals and the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to consider the writ, but since the writ was first filed in the appeals court, the matter had to be settled there before the Supreme Court could take any action.

The Court explained the purpose of the rule is to promote judicial economy and avoid inconsistent results. To avoid two different courts from taking action in the same case, a writ of prohibition blocking the second court from acting is appropriate, the opinion stated. However, that solution is not necessary for actions filed in the same division of the same court but with different judges.

The Court stated in situations such as Consortium’s that the parties have the ability to file for a motion for consolidation to bring all the issues together in one case.

“Therefore, the appellate courts have been correct to recognize that the rule has no applicability when the cases are pending in the same court.”

The Court affirmed the Eighth District decision and allowed Oak Leadership’s case to proceed. Judge McMonagle has retired, and the case is being heard now by Judge John Russo.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Judith L. French, William M. O’Neill, Patrick F. Fischer, and R. Patrick DeWine joined the majority opinion. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in judgment only.

2016-1183. State ex rel. Consortium for Economic & Community Dev. For Hough Ward 7 v. Russo, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-8133.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

Date Published: November 2, 2017


Supreme Court of Ohio


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