Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Supreme Court case announcements, 7/26/17

Four new accepted cases today. Interestingly, all four cases have noted dissents regarding whether to accept the case or which propositions of law to hear. Three of the four are from the Eighth District. (Update: and certified conflicts, too.)

The announcement is here.

State v. Apanovitch, which has been pending for more than a year, is a postconviction death penalty appeal out of the Eighth District. The Court accepted three propositions of law raised by the State relating to whether factual findings in federal habeas proceedings are res judicata in subsequent state-court proceedings; whether a claim of a defective indictment can be raised in postconviction proceedings, given that it does not depend on evidence outside the record; and whether an indictment can include two identical counts based on separate evidence. Chief Justice O'Connor and Justices French and DeWine would have accepted only the last issue. Meanwhile Justices O'Donnell, Kennedy, and O'Neill also would have accepted a question relating to whether a petitioner can prove actual innocence based on DNA evidence excluding the petitioner without first establishing a link between the DNA and the murder. If my math is right, that means that Justice Fischer was the only one to cast his vote for precisely the issues that were ultimately accepted. The Eighth District's decision is here.

Kolosai v. Azem was accepted over the dissents of the Chief Justice and Justices O'Neill and Fischer. It raises one proposition of law relating to the scope of the law of the case doctrine--more specifically, whether it applies only to legal conclusions, and whether it must allow for an expanded factual record on remand. The Eighth District had divided below on this issue.

In State v. Paige, the Court agreed to hear the State's appeal regarding whether a court can sentence an offender to a prison term on one offense and community control on another, without violating the "split sentence" doctrine, and whether Ohio law permits use of the "sentencing-package" doctrine. Generally speaking, a split sentence occurs when an offender is sentenced to both prison and community control for the same offense. The sentencing-package doctrine allows judges to consider collectively the punishment for all crimes of which an offender was convicted, rather than requiring judges to consider each conviction standing alone. The Eighth District determined that the trial court imposed an unlawful split sentence because a prison term imposed for a sexual battery conviction and community control sanctions imposed for domestic violence were inextricably entwined. The State contends that the decision creates a new concept of a split sentence, or alternatively that it revives the sentencing-package doctrine, which was outlawed in Ohio in the 2006 case of State v. Saxon. Chief Justice O'Connor would have accepted only the first issue.

Finally, the Court accepted one proposition of law in In re M.G.B.-E., a Twelfth District appeal concerning whether a probate court may proceed with an adoption when "a parenting matter is proceeding in another court." In particular, the case involves a potential stepfather adoption while the biological mother and father were actively engaged in litigation regarding parenting time in domestic relations court. The court of appeals held that the adoption by the stepfather could proceed without the biological father's consent. The decision to accept this case comes on the heels of the Court's recent decision in In re Adoption of P.L.H., another Twelfth District adoption appeal, in which the Court ruled that in order to "willfully abandon" a mother such that his consent to an adoption is not necessary, a putative father must do more (or less, as it were) than merely fail to care for and support the mother. The Chief Justice, Justice French, and Justice DeWine would not have accepted the case at all.

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