Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Supreme Court of Ohio Commission on Professionalism releases new judicial professionalism guidelines

The Supreme Court of Ohio Commission on Professionalism has just released the fifth edition of their Professionalism Dos and Don’ts series, entitled Professionalism Dos and Don’ts: Judicial Professionalism. The series generally provides a set of best practices for those working in the legal system. The most recent publication provides guidelines for judges to meet professional obligations while serving in their official capacity. The guidelines are not mandatory rules, but provide direction on appropriate conduct for judges and other legal professionals. The full text of Professionalism Dos and Don’ts: Judicial Professionalism can be found here. For more information see this announcement from Court News Ohio.

Supreme Court of Ohio Announces Parenting Coordination Toolkit

The Supreme Court of Ohio (SCO) announced on July 14 the availability of a Parenting Coordination Toolkit. Per the press release, "[t]he toolkit includes a guide to assist courts in writing a local rule for parenting coordination, a sample local rule, appointment order, screening form, intake form, evaluation tools, and other resources." Intended to support local courts as they develop their parenting coordination programs in line with the standardized Rules of Superintendence, the SCO model uses an alternative dispute resolution approach and is ready to implement fully if local courts choose to do so.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ohio Supreme Court: Reduced penalties from amended drug law apply to defendants convicted before and sentenced after law's effective date.

On July 16, 2014 the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that defendants convicted of possessing crack cocaine before sentencing laws were amended and sentenced afterwards should receive the reduced sentence in accordance with the amended law. H.B. 86, which became effective September 30, 2011, amended the Ohio Revised Code to eliminate the difference in criminal penalties based on the form of cocaine the defendant possessed. Prior to the passage of H.B. 86, O.R.C. § 2925.11 provided that possession of crack cocaine was a third-degree felony and possession of the drug in its powder form was a lesser, fourth-degree felony.  H.B. 86 amended O.R.C. § 2925.11 to eliminate this difference and classify possession of cocaine in any form as a fourth-degree felony.

The case, State v. Limoli, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-30722013-Ohio-0403, involved defendant Amber Limoli, who was convicted of possession of crack cocaine on August 18, 2011 pursuant to the old form of O.R.C.§ 2925.11 after entering a no-contest plea in Franklin County. The defendant was not sentenced until October 14, 2011, after the passage of H.B. 86, but was still sentenced to a higher penalty under the old law.  On appeal, the 10th District ruled in favor of Limoli, and the State appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Court found that Limoli should be sentenced to a fourth-degree felony under the amended law.

In its decision, the Court emphasized that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that legislative intent is controlling when determining whether to impose a reduced penalty pursuant to legislation that changes sentencing parameters after conviction, but before sentencing occurs. The Court stressed that the legislative intent of the Ohio General Assembly in passing H.B. 86 was to reduce prison populations and costs by diverting certain offenders and reducing sentences for others, and focused on O.R.C. § 1.58(B), which provides, “If the penalty... for any offense is reduced by a reenactment or amendment of a statute, the penalty... if not already imposed, shall be imposed according to the statute as amended.” The Court found that legislative intent made it clear that O.R.C. § 1.58(B) applied to Limoli's case and remanded it to the trial court for sentencing in accordance with the amended law.

For more information see: http://www.courtnewsohio.gov/cases/2014/SCO/0716/130403.asp#.U80OKvnlqv4