Precedents Not Binding On Local Courts Hearing Appeals


COLUMBUS — Past case law would not have to be a consideration for local courts of appeals granted the right to hear appeals of administrative orders under legislation pending in the Ohio General Assembly.

An amendment last month to Senate Bill 21, which would allow local appeals of orders of state agencies, including the Ohio Liquor Control Commission, states that a local court considering a matter that previously would have been the jurisdiction of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas or the 10th District Court of Appeals may consider prior judicial decisions of those two courts. Prior Franklin County rulings are not binding on any cases being heard locally, however, and the local court is not required to issue any findings of fact explaining why it did not consider or follow any precedent on the matter.

SB 21 also specifies that all cases pending in the 10th District Court of Appeals when the bill takes effect are to be adjudicated by that court, while cases pending in local common pleas courts at the time of the bill’s enactment remain within the jurisdiction of the 10th District on appeal.

Under current law, appeals of Liquor Commission orders, as well as orders from the Ohio Casino Control Commission and several other state boards, plus appeals of indoor smoking ban violations, must be heard by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus.

The amendment was the result of concerns raised by several parties, including Gov. Mike DeWine, that prior case law could be muddied if administrative appeals are moved from one centralized court to numerous courts across the state.

“We have a whole body of law that has been developed, case by case, and that has been for a number of years all (in) Franklin County,” Hannah News Service quoted DeWine after SB 21 was introduced. “So does that precedent follow a transfer where you can file in any of the 88 counties? We’ve got to work our way through that. Part of what we do in the justice system … is we rely on precedent, which gives people the opportunity to predict and have some surety about cases, what the real law is.”

DeWine vetoed legislation similar to SB 21 that came out of the previous legislative session because of language which would have allowed the speaker of the House and the Senate president to retain their own legal counsel to represent the House, the Senate or the General Assembly as a party to any legal action involving a challenge to the Ohio Constitution or state laws. SB 21 retains that language, although it was amended to require that the cost of the General Assembly or governor’s special counsel be paid from the represented party’s operating expenses, or from a separate appropriation made for those costs.

SB 21, sponsored by Sens. Robert McColley (R-1, Napoleon) and Michele Reynolds (R-3, Columbus), was reported out of the Judiciary Committee and awaits action by the full Senate.