Monday, July 28, 2014

Interpreters in Ohio courts: Rules and resources

There are specific rules in place regarding the use of interpreters in Ohio courts and many resources available to ensure compliance with them. On July 18, 2011 the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted Rule 88 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts, which requires courts to use certified foreign and sign language interpreters for court proceedings when available. This rule became effective January 1, 2013. Effective July 1, 2014 the Court amended Rules 80-88 and added Appendix J to provide more detailed information about language and hearing access in Ohio courts.

The Supreme Court of Ohio's Language Services Program offers resources and technical assistance for issues related to access to Ohio’s court system for limited English proficient (LEP), deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The program helps courts, attorneys and interpreters to comply with the Rules of Superintendence and works to facilitate access to the courts for individuals who need these services. Some of their resources include materials such as “Working with Foreign Language Interpreters in the Courtroom: A Benchcard for Judges,” a training video on understanding Rule 88, and PDFs of many important court forms, often translated into multiple languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish. These resources are available to everyone through the Language Services Program page on the Ohio Supreme Court’s website.

The site also contains information on legal obligations related to working with LEP, deaf and hard of hearing individuals and resources for interpreters who may wish to work with the courts. The Advisory Committee on Interpreter Services provides advice to the Ohio Supreme Court with regard to issues of language access through this program. 

For cases which may require interpreters in Hamilton County Municipal and Common Pleas Courts see this link for information about arranging these services. For these services in Hamilton County Court of Domestic Relations see Local Rule 1.27.

Supreme Court of Ohio: A presentence investigation report is required before a felony offender is sentenced to community control

On July 24, 2014 the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that a trial court must order and review a presentence investigation report before sentencing a felony offender to community control sanctions, State v. Amos, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-3160. The case arose from the 8th District Court of Appeals, which heard two cases involving felony offenders who were sentenced to community control without presentence investigations. The 8th District made contrary rulings in these two cases, holding that a presentence investigation was only required when a party requested it in State v. Amos, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 97719, 2012-Ohio-3954 and holding that a presentence investigation was mandatory in State v. Richmond, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 97531, 2012-Ohio-3946.

Although the parties to these cases (the State in Amos and the Defendant in Richmond) requested that the 8th District hear the cases en banc to resolve the conflict, the court declined to do so and appeals were taken to the Ohio Supreme Court, which consolidated the two cases into one.  Justice O’Neill drafted the opinion for the majority. The Court ruled that although requiring a presentence investigation for felony offenders sentenced to community control in cases where the trial court had found one unnecessary “…creates an unnecessary burden on the court’s resources, inconsistent with the general directive of R.C. 2929.11(A),” courts must order one to comply with the revised code. Justice O’Neill wrote that the plain language of R.C. 2951.03(A)(1) and Crim.R. 32.2 “place(s) an unavoidable duty on the trial court to obtain a presentence investigation report in every felony case in which a prison sentence is not imposed.” The Court thus reversed the holding in Amos and upheld Richmond.

Justices O’Connor, Kennedy and French concurred in judgment only, Justices Lanzinger and Pfeifer concurred in part and dissented in part and Justice O’Donnell dissented. Justice Lanzinger drafted a concurring opinion in which Justice Pfeifer joined. Justice Lanzinger argued that the Court is not automatically required to reverse a sentence just because a presentence investigation was not ordered. She wrote that when the parties have not waived the report or objected to the lack of one, “a sentence imposing a community-control sanction for a fourth- or fifth-degree-felony offense should not be disturbed on appeal unless plain error is shown.”Justice Lanzinger asserted that in order to reverse, the sentence must be shown to be “clearly and convincingly contrary to law” and that “the court’s failure to first order and review a PSI report is not a flaw in the sentence itself. Rather, it is a flaw in the sentencing procedure.” She concluded that in these cases, the sentences did not meet the standard.

In his dissent, Justice O’Donnell objected to the Court taking action in this case at all, stating that the Court has never resolved intracourt conflicts on questions of law, but instead requires districts to hear the cases en banc to resolve these issues. He asserted that the cases should be remanded to the 8th District to conduct an en banc proceeding.

For more information about this case see the individual case docket pages: 2012-2093 and 2012-2156 and this article from Court News Ohio.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Supreme Court of Ohio issues decision about the timing of hearings to classify juveniles as sex offenders

On July 22, 2014, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that a juvenile court can order a hearing about whether a juvenile who has been adjudicated delinquent can be classified as a sex-offender at the disposition of the case. The ruling in In re I.A., Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-3155, 2012-2122, settled questions about the timing of this hearing pursuant to O.R.C. 2152.83(B)(1). The Fifth District Court of Appeals had previously ruled that in cases where a court sends a juvenile to a secure facility the court could only classify that individual as an offender upon release from said facility, and the Second District had ruled that it could also be done at the disposition of a case. In a decision drafted by Justice Pfeifer, the Ohio Supreme Court settled this conflict by holding that a hearing could be held on this issue at both times. While the decision was 7-0, Justice French drafted a concurring opinion stating that  R.C. 2152.83(B) permits only one hearing over this issue, not a hearing at both disposition and release. 

For more information about the case please see this link from Court News Ohio.