Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals granting summary judgment in favor of Louis Giavasis, the Stark County Clerk of Courts, on Appellant's complaint for a writ of mandamus to compel the production of public records, holding that the court of appeals correctly concluded that Appellant's mandamus claim failed as a matter of law.Appellant filed a mandamus complaint seeking to compel Giavasis to provide records he had requested. The court of appeals granted summary judgment for Giavasis, noting that Giavasis had satisfied Appellant's first request and that, as to Appellant's second request, Appellant failed to comply with Ohio Rev. Code 149.43(B)(8). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's mandamus claim failed as a matter of law. View "State ex rel. Ware v. Giavasis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Victoria Ullmann's mandamus complaint seeking to compel Respondent, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, to comply with two public-records requests, granted Ullmann's motion for statutory damages, and denied her request for attorneys fees, holding that Ullmann was entitled to statutory damages because Klein failed timely to produce records responsive to Ullmann's public-records requests.At issue before the Supreme Court in Ullmann's mandamus action was whether Klein failed to respond to her public-records requests. In her merit brief, Ullmann stated that she had "finally gotten lots of the documents" she requested from Klein. The Supreme Court dismissed Ullmann's complaint against Klein as moot, holding that because Ullmann failed to identify what public records responsive to her requests remained undisclosed or show that the documents provided were unlawfully redacted, Ullmann was not entitled to a writ of mandamus. The Court further granted Ullmann an award of statutory damages in the amount of $1,000, denied her request for attorney fees, and denied her motions for in camera review of redacted documents Klein provided her and for oral argument. View "State ex rel. Ullmann v. Klein" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals granting the writ of mandamus sought by Appellant concerning certain public records Appellant had requested but denied the writ concerning others, holding that because Appellant did not comply with Ohio Rev. Code 149.43(B)(8) Cleveland Police Forensic Laboratory (CPFL) had no clear legal duty to produce the records identified in the first part of Appellant's request.The court of appeals denied the writ as to the first part of Appellant's request, determining that Appellant had not obtained court approval before requesting public records concerning a criminal investigation or prosecution, as he was required to do under Ohio Rev. Code 149.43(B)(8). The court noted that section 149.43(B) did not apply to the second part of Appellant's request, which did not seek records concerning a criminal investigation or prosecution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Appellant did not obtain court approval as required by section 149.43(B)(8), the court of appeals properly denied the first part of his request. View "State ex rel. Ellis v. Cleveland Police Forensic Laboratory" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the Cincinnati Enquirer's request for a writ of mandamus but granted an award of attorney fees and court costs, holding that the City of Cincinnati's redactions to body-camera footage were proper but that the Enquirer was entitled to reasonable attorney fees and court costs.The Enquirer requested public records, including body-camera footage taken by police officers' body cameras during the arrest of two men. The City denied the records request, and the Enquirer filed this original action for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court granted an alternative writ of mandamus and ordered the City to submit the body-camera videos to the court under seal. The City complied with the directive. Thereafter, the City provided the body-camera footage to the Enquirer but redacted the videos to obscure the faces of plainclothes officers who appeared in the footage. The Supreme Court concluded that the Enquirer was not entitled to a writ of mandamus because the City provided the requested videos and because the redactions were proper. However, the Court granted the Enquirer's request for reasonable attorney fees and costs. View "State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Cincinnati" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals denying Appellant's request for a writ of mandamus to compel the Toledo Correctional Institution (TCI) to produce "all interoffice communications and emails" related to Appellant's efforts to obtain size-12EEE boots, holding that the court of appeals correctly rejected Appellant's mandamus claim.In denying relief, the court of appeals determined that Appellant failed to plead facts with sufficient specificity to determine whether the issuance of a writ of mandamus was warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to show that TCI possessed any records responsive to Appellant's request, and therefore, Appellant did not establish a legal right to the production of any records or show that TCI had a legal duty to produce any records. View "State ex rel. Alford v. Toledo Correctional Institution" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the writ of mandamus sought by Relator seeking to compel the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to release security-camera video footage related to a use-of-force incident at Marion Correctional Institution, holding that Relator was entitled to the writ and that Relator was further entitled to attorney fees and statutory damages.DRC argued that the video at issue was not a public record because it qualified as an “infrastructure record” and a “security record,” both of which were exceptions to the definition of a “public record” and therefore not subject to release or disclosure under Ohio Rev. Code 149.433. The Supreme Court disagreed and ordered DRC to provide Relator with an unreacted copy of the requested video, holding (1) the requested record was neither an infrastructure record nor a security record; (2) DRC was required to reimburse Relator for the court costs he paid to commence this action; (3) Relator was entitled to attorney fees and statutory damages; and (4) DRC’s motion for a protective order is denied as moot. View "State ex rel. Rogers v. Department of Rehabilitation and Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Fourth District Court of Appeals denying the request for a writ of mandamus sought by the Cincinnati Enquirer and granted a writ of mandamus, holding that the Enquirer was entitled to review certain documents in the custody of the coroner’s office.An Enquirer reporter made a request to view preliminary autopsy and investigative notes and findings relating to the homicides of eight individuals in Pike County. The Pike County prosecuting attorney and Pike County’s medical examiner and coroner denied the request to review the records. The Enquirer then filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus asking the court of appeals to order the respondents to make the records available. The court of appeals denied the request, concluding that the autopsy reports were properly withheld because they constituted confidential law-enforcement investigatory records of the eight decedents and, therefore, were not subject to the journalist exception in Ohio Rev. Code 313.10(D), which provides that journalists be given access to review the preliminary autopsy reports of a county coroner. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals disregarded the plain language of section 313.10(D) in denying the Enquirer’s request for a writ of mandamus. View "State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Pike County General Health District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the request of Relators - Cincinnati Enquirer and Columbus Dispatch - for a writ of mandamus seeking to compel the release of unreacted reports on the autopsies of eight members of the Rhoden and Gilley families, who were murdered in Pike County in 2016. The court also denied the Enquirer’s motion for oral argument and the Dispatch’s motion to compel access to unreacted autopsy reports filed under seal with the Supreme Court.The Enquirer filed this original action against the Pike County Coroner’ Office seeking a writ of mandamus to compel release of the final autopsy reports regarding the eight decedents. The Dispatch filed a separate original action in this court seeking the same relief. Redacted copies of the eight final autopsy reports were subsequently released. The Supreme Court subsequently permitted the unreacted autopsy reports to be filed under seal. The Supreme Court denied the Enquirer’s and the Dispatch’s motions and the requested writ of mandamus, holding that autopsy reports qualify as confidential law enforcement investigatory records (CLEIR), and therefore, the information is exempt from public disclosure pursuant to the CLEIR exception while the investigation into the murders is ongoing. View "State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Pike County Coroner's Office" on Justia Law

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Relators filed this original action in mandamus seeking the release of video from a camera worn by an officer who shot a motorist after a traffic stop. Relators asserted that Respondent, the prosecuting attorney, violated the Public Records Act by failing either to make the body-camera video available for inspection and copying or to prove that it was exempt from disclosure. The prosecutor released the video two days after the complaint was filed. The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of mandamus as to certain relators because the relators failed to request the record from the prosecutor’s office and denied the writ as to other relators because the body-camera video had already been produced. Because the video was produced within a reasonable amount of time, the request for statutory damages and attorney fees was also denied. View "State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Deters" on Justia Law

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The Cincinnati Enquirer requested the disclosure of recordings from cameras mounted on the dashboards of two Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) cars. The OSHP denied the request in its entirety. The Enquirer subsequently filed this mandamus action alleging that the OSHP and Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) violated the Ohio Public Records Act by refusing to release the recordings. Thereafter, ODPS provided copies of the recordings to the Enquirer. The Supreme Court held (1) subject to redaction, the Enquirer had a clear legal right to the requested records and that the defendants had a clear legal duty to provide the records; and (2) the Enquirer was not entitled to attorney fees, statutory damages, or court costs. View "State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Ohio Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law