Friday, February 20, 2009

Ohio Supreme Court indigent defense rules for capital cases

The Ohio Supreme Court earlier this week announced amendments to rules governing the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in capital cases.

In Ohio only lawyers qualified & registered by the Supreme Court can be appointed to defend an indigent person in death penalty cases. Ohio is one of several states having guidelines for indigent defense; Rule of Superintendence 20, passed in 2003.

More information in general & on the ABA's position can be found on the American Bar Association's website @

In Ohio, there are 409 attorneys are currently registered. Hamilton County has 28 of them, ten of which are also Law Library members. Butler and Clermont Counties in Ohio have five each, and Warren County has one. Information about Ohio's program can be obtained @

The amendments split former Sup. R. 20 into separate specific rulers for purposes of clarification, give the Rule 20 Committee the ability to adopt best practices for representing indigent death penalty defendants, and mandate that continuing education for certified attorneys has to include the best practices adopted by the committee.

Comments will be entertained until March 17th. and should be submitted in writing to: Tammy White, Attorney Services Coordinator, Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 S. Front St., Fifth Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or

Rule 20 amendments

Current Rule’s reading
ORC 2929.04 (A) "Criteria for imposing death penalty/imprisonment for capital offenses"

Monday, February 09, 2009

Ohio Supreme Court note on 'Special Project Funds'

Near the beginning of the year Ohio Attorney General's office issued an opinion relating a municipal court's use of its "special project funds." Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court's information office related that that opinion "may have implications for courts that have established special project funds." ( Here )

The Attorney General's opinion dealt specifically with an Ohio municipal court's intent to support programs not directly operated or administered by that court from its "specials projects fund."

"ORC § 1901.26(B)(1) expressly authorizes a municipal court to 'acquire & pay for' special projects that facilitate its efficient operation," the opinion said. But in the absence of a statutory definition of that phrase, the "everyday meaning" from Webster that "to acquire & pay for" indicates an intent that the court will receive something of value in return for moneys paid out from its special projects fund, was used.

"According to the description of the proposed uses of moneys," the Attorney General said, "the court plans simply to donate portions of its special projects funds to programs operated by individuals or entities other than the court. In making such donations, the court would neither acquire anything of its own, nor be paying for goods or services rendered to it … a donation does not constitute either the acquisition of, or payment for, a special project of the court, and is not, therefore, authorized…. "

That having all been said, we note the similarities in "special projects funding" statutes for both the Courts of Common Pleas and Appellate courts in Ohio, in that the same view might be held.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ohio Supreme Court to hear Commercial Activity Tax case

The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday agreed to hear a petition challenging the constitutionality of the state's Commercial Activities Tax when it's applied to food sold by wholesalers and in groceries. (See Docket )

The Ohio Grocers Association had sued the state back in 2006, contending that the tax was constitutionally prohibited when applied to the wholesale sale of food and the retail sale for consumption off the premises where it was sold. The state’s position was that because neither Sections 3(C) nor 13 of Article 12 of the Ohio Constitution expressly, or by implication, prohibit “the imposition of a tax on the privilege of doing business in Ohio,” CAT was valid.

A Franklin County common pleas court found for the state, which was appealed last year. On Sept. 2, 2008, the Tenth District Court of Appeals reversed, holding that “while it would appear that the constitutional exceptions in Sections 3(C)and 13 of Article XII were not meant to apply to franchise taxes, judicial interpretation has clearly determined that a franchise tax is a form of excise tax (and) excise taxes on certain food sales are precisely what the Constitution prohibits.”

With the Ohio Commercial Activity Tax on grocery foods being projected to generate some $188 million a year once it’s fully phased in next year, the state’s obviously appealing that rendition. ( See Ohio’s Memorandum in Support of Jurisdiction )

Ohio’s Commercial Activity Tax is codified @ ORC § 5751.01 et.seq.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Ohio Supreme Court Rules of Procedure

The Ohio Supreme Court, in an informational release Monday morning, announced it will continue to be accepting public comment on a set of revised amendments to annual updates to appellate, civil, criminal, and juvenile Rules of Procedure thru March 3, 2009 ( Release )

Initially published for comment on Oct. 20, the Supreme Court Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure recommended further revisions, which were considered by the Supreme Court along with written comments from the public received at that time. The amendments were then filed with the General Assembly and republished for public comment.

Notable at this juncture is that proposed amendments published in October to Civ. R. 4 through 4.6, which would have required a plaintiff to make service of process rather than the clerk in civil cases, were withdrawn by the Commission.

The proposed amendment to Criminal Rule 32, on judgments, clarifies that a judgment of conviction must set forth the plea, verdict or findings upon which the conviction is based, and the sentence. The change is based on the Supreme Court’s decision last in State v. Baker, 2008-Ohio-3330, a certified conflict between the 9th. and 12th. Courts of Appeal where it was resolved that “a judgment of conviction is a final appealable order under Revised Code § 2505.02 when it sets forth (1) the guilty plea, jury verdict, or finding of the court upon which conviction is based; (2) the sentence; (3) the signature of the judge in the case; and (4) the entry on the journal by the clerk of court.”

Proposed Amendments