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Case Update

Slim pickings from the Ohio Supreme Court, and only 50 decisions in the courts of appeals.  The big decision from the Ohio Seven was State v. Veney, in which the court affirmed the 10th District's vacating of a plea because the trial court had failed to inform Veney that the state had to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Cases on the validity of pleas occur with regularity, and the basic law on Criminal Rule 11, which governs pleas, is that the court must "strictly comply" with the portions of the rule which require the trial court to advise a defendant of what constitutional rights he's waiving, and must "substantially comply" with everything else.  Veney reaffirms that, and further holds that if the trial court doesn't strictly comply -- the requirement that the state prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is a constitutional right -- then the plea has to be vacated.

Justice Lanzinger's opinion on behalf of the three dissenters argued that while the trial judge didn't strictly comply, there still remained the question of determining whether the defendant was prejudiced.  Lanzinger noted that in cases of substantial compliance, the defendant had the burden of showing that he'd been prejudiced, and suggested that in cases of strict compliance, instead of mandating automatic reversal, the courts should still consider prejudice, this time placing the burden on the state to show that non-compliance didn't affect the defendant's decision to enter the plea.

The result in Veney is a vindication of Chief Justice Moyer's "strict constructionist" view:  when a trial court doesn't comply with a rule, reversal is required.  While there's some logic to Lanzinger's opinion, Moyer's view has the advantage of simplicity:  everybody knows what they have to do, and everybody knows what happens if they don't do it.  The purpose of an appellate court, and especially a supreme court, is to define what the law is with as much clarity as can be mustered.  Veney accomplishes that.  One might argue that it does so at the expense of achieving a correct result in a particular case, but allowing subjective judgments about whether a defendant would have pled anyway is hardly holds out the promise that correct results will be achieved in every case anyway.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Criminal.  10th District says that post-conviction relief statute only provides remedy for trial errors, not sentencing errors, except in capital cases... Seeing a person go into a known crack house after parking around a corner, exit after three minutes, leave the scene at a high rate of speed after seeing the police, and fumbling with something in the car is sufficient reasonable suspicion to warrant an investigative stop, says the 9th District... 10th District holds that determination of indigency for purpose of entitlement to appointed counsel not the same as for purpose of paying mandatory fine; make sure you file an affidavit of indigency prior to sentencing... Defendant provided sufficient "emotional and financial" support to justify in loco parentis element for conviction of sexual battery re daughter of his live-in girlfriend, says 3rd District...

Civil.  10th District says damages for repairs in real estate case can't be "disproportionate" to purchase price, reverses judgment of $300,000 for future repairs where home was purchased for $410,000... 9th District holds that 19 years is way too long to wait to move to vacate QDRO, and besides, only claim is that trial court erred in signing off on QDRO, and that's not enough under 60(B), either...

When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight... unless our truck breaks down.  A few weeks back, I mentioned that the Supreme Court had struck the amicus brief the City of Cleveland had filed in the case over the constitutionality of the state statute prohibiting municipalities from requiring its employees to live within the city, because the brief had been filed a day late.  The Plain Dealer got a little more in depth as to the reason for the tardy filing:

Records show that shortly before 4 p.m. on Sept. 15, city Assistant Law Director Gary S. Singletary used FedEx to send the motion to Akron. The city paid for overnight delivery, but the parcel took about 41 hours to reach the court in Columbus, according to FedEx's online tracking system.

Jim McClusky, a FedEx spokesman, said the truck carrying the package broke down. He said this happens very rarely.

"We certainly regret that," he said.  "But, well, shit happens."

Yeah, I did make up the last part.  Meanwhile, this story generated 69 comments on the PD's web site.  Sign of the times:  By comment No. 8, the debate had degenerated into a discussion of the competence of an Obama presidency.

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