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.