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In re A.W.

December 4, 2008

IN THE MATTER OF: A.W., (APPELLANT).


APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Division of Domestic Relations, Juvenile Branch. (C.P.C. No. 07JU-03-4254).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tyack, J.

(REGULAR CALENDAR)

OPINION

{¶1} A.W. appeals from his being adjudicated a delinquent minor and committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services. Two errors are assigned for our consideration:

First Assignment of Error

In ruling upon objections to the magistrate's decision the trial court erroneously applied the appellate standard for review of the weight and sufficiency of the evidence rather than undertaking the independent review required by Juvenile Rule 40 (D) (4) (d).

Second Assignment of Error

The finding that appellant is a delinquent child was not supported by sufficient evidence and was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

{¶2} Addressing the first assignment of error, A.W.'s case was referred to a magistrate for processing. A trial was conducted and the magistrate issued an abbreviated magistrate's decision in which he indicated A.W. should be adjudicated a delinquent minor as a result of having committed the offense of felonious assault with respect to two named individuals. Two other charges of felonious assault were ordered to be dismissed as a result of a failure of the state of Ohio to present proof of those offenses beyond a reasonable doubt.

{¶3} Counsel for A.W. filed objections to the magistrate's decision. A copy of the transcript of the trial was prepared at the court's expense.

{¶4} After a number of continuances, an objections hearing was conducted before a judge of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations, Juvenile Branch. The judge later overruled the objections and adopted the magistrate's decision without modification. The judge's decision and judgment entry overruling the objections is questioned in the first assignment of error.

{¶5} The trial judge correctly set forth the standard of review in the decision and judgment entry when the judge wrote:

When reviewing Objections to a Magistrate's Decision, the trial court must undertake the equivalent of a de novo determination in light of any filed objections, when independently assessing the facts and conclusions contained in the magistrate's decision. Shihab & Assocs. Co. v. Ohio DOT (2006), 168 Ohio App. Ed 405, 2006 Ohio 4456 860 N.Ed. 2d 155, 2006 Ohio App. LEXIS 4371 (Franklin County Ct. App.); DeSantis v. Soller (1990) 70 Ohio App.3d 226, 590 N.E.2d. 886. According to Ohio Rule of Juvenile Procedure 40(E)(4)(b), when ruling on Objections, the trial court may adopt or reject a Magistrate's Decision in whole or in part with or without modification. The trial court may take additional evidence, recommit the matter to the Magistrate with instructions, or hear the matter itself.

{¶6} However, the judge appears to have noted an incorrect amount of deference to the findings of the magistrate when the judge wrote under "Legal Analysis":

The juvenile argues that the Magistrate's Decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence and there is insufficient evidence to support the Decision. The Court, in reviewing a Decision based on a claim of insufficient evidence, applies the test of "viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rationale trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." See State v. Glass (1994), Ohio App. LEXIS 2475 (June 7, 1994), Franklin App. No. 93APA10-1471, unreported (1994 Opinions 2524, 2529). The Franklin County Court of Appeals also stated that a "judgment of conviction will not be reversed on the grounds of insufficient evidence where there is substantial evidence which, if believed would convince the average mind of defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

{¶7} A trial judge reviewing a magistrate's decision does not owe the same deference to the magistrate's findings that we, as an appellate court, owe to a jury verdict of guilty or a trial judge's finding of guilty.

{ΒΆ8} We cannot tell from the trial court's decision and judgment entry which legal standard the trial judge applied. If the trial judge applied the de novo standard, the trial judge was correct. If the trial judge ...


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