Monday, November 23, 2009

Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas fee increases

Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas also announces it will be changing Local Rule 9 regarding security deposits for costs, effective December 1, 2009, and until further notice. (Here)

Local Rule 9(A) reads:

(1). Deposits for Civil Actions (non-foreclosure) will increase from $225.00 to $325.00 (effective 12/1/09)
(1A). Deposits for Foreclosure Action (a new designation) will be $550.00 (effective 12/1/09)

Hamilton County Court of Domestic Relations rule amendment

Interested parties still have a day or two to comment on Hamilton County Court of Domestic Relations' proposed amendment of Local Rule of Guardians ad Litem, which can be viewed (Here).

Comments will be received until Wednesday, November 25th. and should be directed to Court Administrator Lisa Dwenger via e-mail @

More information is available at the Court’s website (Here)

Southern District of Ohio Bankruptcy Rule Amendements

The Southern District U.S. Bankruptcy Court here in Cincinnati has posted amendment proposals to their Local Bankruptcy Rules (“LBR”) and has been entertaining submissions for public comment. The proposed amendments are available by clicking the links below.

The comment deadline is Friday, November 27, 2009.

Comments and suggestions may be submitted electronically to

Proposed Amendments to the Local Bankruptcy Rules
Unofficial Summary of Changes to the Local Bankruptcy Rules

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Special counsel" issue in Hamilton County, Ohio

Two of Hamilton County, Ohio's three county commissioners last week filed a petition with the Ohio Supreme Court asking that the high court block an order issued by the same county's court of common pleas, directing the Board to terminate using an outside law firm to represent the County in matters relating to various riverfront developments, including its "Banks Project." (Article)

The order, signed by 12 of the County's 16 common pleas court judges – all named in the Commissioners' complaint – was drawn last October 15th.; the Commissioners are saying that the Court doesn't have jurisdiction to issue such an order.

That termination, the Commissioners' complaint says, would deprive the Board of "long-standing, court-approved counsel in the redevelopment of the Cincinnati riverfront, which by its very nature involves complex legal issues," and that, further, "Sections 305.14(A) and 305.17 of the Ohio Revised Code, which govern the Board's attorney-client relationship with special counsel, preclude the Court of Common Pleas from terminating thc Board's counsel or purporting to prohibit its compensation."

Portions of §309.09 and 309.10 are in pertinence and mentioned.

Ohio execution method changed

For those who haven't heard, the State of Ohio announced last Friday that it was adopting a single-drug method to execute capital crime inmates instead of the 3-drug "cocktail" employed by 35 other states in the nation using lethal injection – "wading," as the Associated Press referred to it, "into largely uncharted territory." ( Article )(Ohio Dept. of Corrections’ announcement )

The drug – thiopental sodium – is commonly used to euthanize animals, in some parts of Europe for assisted suicide, and, in much lower doses, obviously, to sedate patients for surgery; but it has apparently never been used to execute prisoners.

The AP article said, death penalty opponents were hailing the decision as making executions more humane, while also expressing reservations about using an untested method. Ty Alper, associate director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, law school, was quoted as saying, "This is a significant step forward. Paralyzing inmates before executing them — so we can't tell whether they are suffering — is a barbaric practice, and Ohio should be commended for stopping it." Richard Dieter, director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, noted reservations about the new practice and said it would essentially be an experiment performed on inmates. "They're human subjects and they're not a willingly part of this… It's experimenting with the unknown, and that always raises concerns."

The motion the filed last Friday in U.S. District Court is expected to lead to a dismissal of the primary constitutional challenge to the state’s lethal injection methodology.

The U.S. Supreme Court, last year in Baze v. Rees, upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection in Kentucky, but, the article points out, "Ohio's new system is substantially different than the three-drug process the Court examined in that case. In that opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts addressed, briefly, the single sedative dose large enough to cause death, saying it had problems of its own, having never been tried by any state."

Monday, November 09, 2009

Juvenile Life Sentencing Update

Aside from death penalty cases, a USA Today article this morning says, justices of the Supreme Court have never before found a penalty crossed the cruel-and-unusual punishment line. That may have changed this morning.

"Life sentences with no chance of parole are rare and harsh for juveniles tried as adults and convicted of crimes less serious than murder, and there are just over 100 prison inmates in the United States serving those terms, according to data compiled by opponents of the sentences," the article says. Florida reportedly has more than 70% of that total, including Terrence Graham and Joe Sullivan, whose cases were before the Supreme Court just before noon.

The case is saying to flow directly from the Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons in 2005 to rule out the death penalty for anyone younger than 18. There the Court said, "When a juvenile commits a heinous crime, the State can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity. While drawing the line at 18 is subject to the objections always raised against categorical rules, that is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood and the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest."

Lyle Denniston at ScotusBlog, however, points out that "The Supreme Court has said repeatedly, as it decided death-penalty cases (often putting limits on such sentences, or ruling them out altogether in some situations), that ‘death is different,’ and that perception has led to a complex jurisprudence of capital punishment, including a flat ban on that penalty for some specific crimes (rape, for example) and some individuals in a specific group (minors and mentally impaired individuals). The Court, however, has not yet constructed a full constitutional guidebook for long prison sentences, although it has settled on one principle: a sentence for a term of years in prison will be struck down if it is 'grossly disproportionate' to the crime, judged on a case-by-case, rather than across-the-board, basis."

While similar, the cases are not identical, and the Court has decided to hear them separately.

See our previous posts (Here) and (Here), with much more on ScotusBlog (Here)

Graham’s Petition for certiorari
Sullivan’s Petition for certiorari

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ohio Supreme Court upholds "intensive program prison" release

In a case echoing State v. Bloomer back in June, in which the Ohio Supreme Court held that trial courts "had a statutory duty to provide notice to offenders of post-release control at the sentencing hearing, and any sentence imposed without such notification is contrary to law and void," possibly allowing the release of as many as 15, 000 former prisoners now under post-release supervision, it yesterday found that once the Department of Corrections determines an offender a good candidate for placement in an intensive program prison ("IPP") in lieu of serving the sentence ordered by the court, and notifies the court of that determination, if the court doesn't take any action after ten days, the Department may proceed with placement in IPP and once that inmate completes the IPP can be released.

State v. Roberts [pursuant to ORC §5120.032(B)(1)(b) ]
Roberts' appeal case

Previous post re Bloomer, Oct. 29th.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

PACER redaction policies

For those who don't know what PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is, first of all, it is "an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from Federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts, and the U.S. Party/Case Index via the Internet." It's a service of the United States Judiciary; the PACER Service Center being run by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

CM/ECF is the federal courts' case management and electronic case files system, an intricate part of PACER, providing courts with enhanced and updated docket management, and allowing them to maintain case documents in electronic form. It also gives each court the option of permitting case documents - pleadings, motions, petitions – to be filed electronically with the court over the Internet.

CM/ECF in bankruptcy courts began in early 2001. For the district courts the "roll out" began nationally in May 2002, and in 2005 for the federal appellate courts . Over 35 million cases are now on CM/ECF systems, with more than 450,000 attorneys and others have filed documents over the Internet.

Federal Rules of Appellate, Bankruptcy, Civil, and Criminal Procedure implementing the E-Government Act of 2002 became effective on December 1, 2007, amending Appellate Rule 25, Bankruptcy Rule 9037, Civil Rule 5.2, and Criminal Rule 49.1 to require that personal identification information, such as social security numbers & taxpayer identification numbers, the names of minor children, financial account numbers, dates of birth, and, in criminal cases, home addresses of parties and other particulars, be redacted from documents being filed with the courts.

The Judicial Conference's policy on privacy and public access to electronic case files has developed incrementally over the years, evolving to the point where it now provides for remote access to all electronic civil, bankruptcy, criminal, and appellate case files along with the appropriate privacy safeguards. The Conference continues to review that policy periodically and, in March 2008, the approved streamlining it to eliminate provisions that are duplicative of the Rules of Practice and Procedure. (Here)

The Federal Courts are now taking a number of new steps to ensure that privacy protections afforded under federal rules are followed and are reminding those filing electronically of the their obligation under the law to redact personal identifier information with a message that includes links to relevant rules. An example of the revised login screen was included in PACER's October newsletter. At login to CM/ECF, a message reminds attorneys of their responsibility to redact this private information from the documents they file; the most recent version of this reminder also requires attorneys acknowledge that they have read the notice and complied with the redaction rules. Filers cannot complete the login process without checking the acknowledgement in this recent version.

The latest CM/ECF versions also include a number of other notable changes, including being able to choose whether the client code field should be mandatory when logging into CM/ECF. (See Here)

A new "Court Information" utility is also now available, providing general court information such as hours of operation, court location and phone number, as well as filing information such as the maximum size of PDF files, the court's version of CM/ECF, case flag definitions and more.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kentucky Supreme Court sex offender residency case appealled

On October 1, the Kentucky Supreme Court joined those of both Ohio and Indiana in holding that sex offender residency laws could not be applied retroactively. But, by the end of the month, articles were appearing that probation & parole officers were being told to essentially ignore that decision and view an offender's living within 1,000 feet of a school, day-care center or playground as a violation of their probation or parole-- even if their crime was committed before the statute was strengthened in 2006-- because the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office was considering appealing the decision. (Here)

An article on Oct. 29th. indicated that the Kentucky Dept. of Corrections' position was that the Court's decision on Oct. 1 was not a final ruling since Attorney General Jack Conway had filed a motion to stay with the Court. That motion, though, was denied yesterday.

An article this morning related that Conway will be asking the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay to review the Kentucky high court's ruling and that that office has until Dec. 30 to file its request with the nation's high court. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office commented that they were "hopeful that the Supreme Court would take the case and grant the stay because the issue had implications for many other states, and courts in some other states have ruled differently than Kentucky’s Supreme Court." (Here)

In its analysis the Kentucky Supreme Court did note that while the Indiana and Ohio Supreme Courts held retroactive residency requirements were unconstitutional, and Mikaloff v. Walsh, in Ohio's Northern District Court, had held that retroactive application of Ohio's residency restriction statute violated the federal ex post facto clause, it, on the other hand, also noted that Doe v. Miller, 405F.3d 700 (8th Cir.2005) ; State v. Seering, 701 N.W2d 655 (Iowa 2005); Thompson v. State, 603 S.E.2d 233(Ga.2O04) ; People v. Leroy, 828 N.E.2d 769 (Ill. App. Ct. 2005), and Lee v. State, 895 So.2d 1038 (Ala. Crim. App. 2004) uphold residency restriction statutes against ex post facto challenges.

The Kentucky Department of Corrections, meanwhile, has now also released a statement saying that because Monday's ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court is a final order, probation and parole officers are being notified that sex offenders who committed their crimes prior to July 12, 2006, are no longer subject to the residency restrictions of the 2006 law.