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Daily Court Reporter - News Supreme Court of Ohio heard four oral arguments on Tuesday, February 13th, including a challenge to how the state calculates school funding

 

Supreme Court of Ohio heard four oral arguments on Tuesday, February 13th, including a challenge to how the state calculates school funding

Dan Trevas, Supreme Court of Ohio

The Ohio Supreme Court heard four oral arguments on Tuesday, February 13th, including a suit brought by ECOT over the use of participation by the Ohio Department of Education to establish payments to charter schools.

Summaries Available

Below is a summary of the four arguments heard Tuesday. Along with the descriptions in this article, the Office of Public Information has released in-depth summaries of the cases available online at: http://www.courtnewsohio.gov/cases/previews/default.asp#.Wn25cOdG2Uk

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, Jeremy Aker, et al. v. Ohio Department of Education, Case no. 2017-0913

Tenth District Court of Appeals (Franklin County

ISSUES:

Is the Ohio Department of Education barred by R.C. 3314.08 from imposing a durational standard of student participation to determine the funding for an online community school?

If the law permitted the department to base funding on student participation, did the department fail to follow the required procedures for issuing guidelines on how participation is to be measured and documented?

BACKGROUND:

In 1997, Ohio enacted new laws permitting community schools which are public schools that don’t operate under the direct control of a public school district. Community schools, also known as charter schools, receive funding from the state, but unlike public school districts, cannot levy local taxes or directly receive funds from local tax levies. The laws include R.C. 3314.08, which established a funding calculation for community schools based on the “enrollment” of students. The state provides money for a student to the community school and deduct state aid from the public school district the student left to attend a community school.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) began operation in 2000 as an online community school (e-school). It was the state’s first e-school. It doesn’t have traditional school buildings where students attend class, but rather provides kindergarten through twelfth-grade education to students across the state through computers provided to students. The students can log onto ECOT’s online educational content. Additionally, ECOT offers various non-computer-based learning opportunities, such as field trips, that students could use to complete their course requirements.

During the 2015-2016 school year, ECOT enrolled about 15,000 students. When the school began operation, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) initiated a review of the full-time equivalency (FTE) of students attending online schools. Because ECOT students were not sitting in classrooms, the state had to determine what measurement was required to accurately calculate ECOT’s FTE for funding purposes. The department and ECOT negotiated the terms of a compliance contract that took effect in 2003. The funding agreement measured the enrollment of the students at the beginning of the school year and required ECOT to offer at least 920 hours of “learning opportunities” to each student during the course of a school year. From 2003 until 2015, the department provided funding to ECOT based on its reported enrollment. The documentation that indicated the number of students enrolled for the entire school year and those that withdrew by either dropping out or transferring to another school.

The department conducts thorough FTE reviews of community school funding every five years. ECOT’s enrollment was reviewed in 2016. At the time, the department indicated that in addition to documentation about enrollment, it wanted to verify actual “student participation” in learning opportunities to calculate funding.

ECOT sought a court injunction, attempting to block the department from demanding the durational data that students logged into the system and records of participation in educational activities. When the legal action failed, the department determined that, based on the data provided by ECOT, the school inflated its enrollment and was required to repay the state. The law requires a “clawback” when overfunding occurs. The clawback doesn’t seek repayment from the school, but rather reduces the amount of funding provided in future years.

ECOT appealed the decision to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, which ruled that R.C. 3314.08 permitted the department to seek and use the student participation data to determine funding. The Tenth District Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, and ECOT appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Union Carbide Corporation et al. v. Bobby Turner et al., Case no. 2017-0004

Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

ISSUES:

When the smoking habits of a person with lung cancer who claims the cancer is asbestos-related are in dispute, must the person provide a report from a “competent medical authority” demonstrating the person is a non-smoker in order to move forward with an asbestos-related lawsuit?

May a trial court determine by the weight of the evidence whether the person with lung cancer is a “smoker” as defined in R.C.2307.91(DD), and decide if additional evidence must be submitted before the case moves forward?

BACKGROUND:

In 2004, the Ohio General Assembly enacted House Bill 292 to develop a comprehensive method for handling personal injury lawsuits based on asbestos-related diseases. The law established guidelines to allow lawsuits from those with actual asbestos injuries to move forward immediately and to defer cases of those who have yet to experience symptoms. The law also developed separate tracks for cases from those suffering from lung cancer. Those with no history of smoking could immediately proceed with their cases, while those with a history of smoking must establish, with medical reports, that the lung cancer was caused by asbestos, not smoking, before proceeding.

In April 2013, Bobby Turner was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he and his wife filed a lawsuit against Union Carbide and others, alleging his lung cancer was caused by his exposure to asbestos when he was a drywall finisher in the 1960s and ‘70s. Citing R.C. 2307.93, Union Carbide requested the trial court to “administratively dismiss” Turner’s case because he failed to submit the prima facie evidence required by R.C. 2307.92 to pursue his claim. Those sections of the Ohio Revised Code require a person who is deemed to be a smoker to present a report from a competent medical authority that the cancer is related to asbestos exposure.

Rather than file a medical report, Turner countered that in 1956 he smoked about one cigar a month and has been a nonsmoker since 1957. He provided the court some of his medical records where it was documented that he wasn’t a smoker. Union Carbide presented other records by his treating physicians that reported he still smokes cigars. Union Carbide also provided depositions of Turner’s general physician, who believed Turner to be a cigar smoker, and a record from his treating pulmonologist stating that he smoked.

Turner contested the information provided by the company and submitted the testimony of friends and family who maintained he wasn’t a smoker.

The trial court denied Union Carbide’s motion, which the company appealed to the Eighth District. The company argued that unless Turner could prove through a written report by a competent medical authority that he was a nonsmoker, he couldn’t proceed with his asbestos claim. However, the Eighth District affirmed the trial court’s decision, and the company appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

State of Ohio v. Demetrius Jackson, Case no. 2017-0145

Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

ISSUE:

Does a social worker’s duty to cooperate and share information about child abuse or neglect with law enforcement make the social worker an agent of law enforcement requiring the social worker to read Miranda warnings to a criminal defendant?

BACKGROUND:

On Aug. 5, 2015, Demetrius Jackson was arrested when a 14-year-old identified as C.H. told family and police that Jackson had raped and choked her. C.H. had been babysitting at her adult sister’s house while another adult sister and Jackson were there.

When Jackson was detained in jail, a detective from the Cleveland Police Department visited. The detective informed Jackson of his Miranda rights, and Jackson refused to speak with him. A few days later, Holly Mack, a social worker for the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services, went to the jail to talk with Jackson. The division assigns a social worker to interview alleged perpetrators when it receives allegations of abuse or neglect of children.

At Jackson’s bench trial, Mack testified. She said she tells the people she interviews in jail that anything they say can be used by the courts and that it is up to them whether they want to continue with the interview. Mack stated that Jackson told her that he and C.H. had consensual oral sex and C.H. demanded money afterward. Mack reported Jackson’s account through the division’s computer system to her supervisor.

Jackson responded at his trial that he didn’t know C.H. was under 18, that she propositioned him, and that he never choked her.

The trial court found Jackson guilty of rape, gross sexual imposition, and kidnapping. Jackson was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Jackson appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which reversed his conviction. The court ruled that Jackson’s protection against self-incrimination in the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment was violated because Mack acted as an agent of law enforcement and failed to give the Miranda warnings. Jackson’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was also violated, the Eighth District stated.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, which accepted the case.

The Bank of New York Mellon v. Susan L. Rhiel, trustee, Case no. 2017-0870

Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

ISSUES:

Is an individual who is not identified in the body of a mortgage, but who signs and initials the mortgage, a mortgagor of his or her interest?

Is mortgage paperwork completed as described above invalid as a matter of law such that outside evidence is not admissible to determine the individual’s intent by signing the mortgage?

BACKGROUND:

Vodrick L. Perry and Marcy L. Perry bought a house in Reynoldsburg in 2005. They took out a mortgage jointly, and the deed to the property was recorded. The mortgage listed both Perrys as borrowers, and each signed the mortgage and initialed the pages.

In February 2007, Vodrick Perry refinanced the mortgage. He signed a promissory note, which promises to repay the loan, but Marcy Perry didn’t sign it. Vodrick Perry applied for the loan to America’s Wholesale Lender. The application included his information, it stated that he was married, and only he signed it. The new mortgage identifies Vodrick Perry as the borrower for the loan. At the closing, both Vodrick and Marcy Perry signed the mortgage paperwork and initialed the pages.

The Perrys started bankruptcy proceedings in federal court in September 2014, and Susan L. Rhiel was appointed as the trustee for the bankruptcy. The Bank of New York Mellon was the current holder of the note and the mortgage on the home. Rhiel asked the bankruptcy court for a declaration that Marcy Perry’s interest in the property (one half) wasn’t implicated by the second loan secured to refinance the mortgage. Finding that the mortgage for the refinancing was ambiguous, the bankruptcy judge determined that extrinsic evidence was needed to determine each spouse’s intent and rights.

After a trial, the bankruptcy court ruled in favor of the Bank of New York Mellon, and trustee Rhiel appealed to the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal court’s panel determined that it needed direction regarding Ohio law to decide the case.

The Ohio Supreme Court has discretion to answer questions about state law presented to it by federal courts. The panel submitted two questions, stating that federal bankruptcy courts in Ohio and various state courts of appeals have ruled differently on these issues. The Supreme Court agreed to consider the questions. Rhiel’s appeal with the bankruptcy panel remains pending.

Date Published: February 27, 2018

 

Supreme Court of Ohio

 

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