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The State Ex Rel. Dewine v. Court of Claims of Ohio

October 18, 2011

THE STATE EX REL. DEWINE,
APPELLEE,
v.
COURT OF CLAIMS OF OHIO, APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, No. 09AP-863, SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS OF THE COURT The Court of Claims lacks jurisdiction to review decisions of the attorney general granting or denying payment of attorney fees in connection with an award of reparations filed on behalf of a victim of a crime.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'donnell, J.

[Until this opinion appears in the Ohio Official Reports advance sheets, it may be cited as State ex rel. DeWine v. Court of Claims of Ohio, Slip Opinion No. 2011-Ohio-5283.]

NOTICE

This slip opinion is subject to formal revision before it is published in an advance sheet of the Ohio Official Reports. Readers are requested to promptly notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 South Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, of any typographical or other formal errors in the opinion, in order that corrections may be made before the opinion is published.

SLIP OPINION NO. 2011-OHIO-5283

[Until this opinion appears in the Ohio Official Reports advance sheets, it may be cited as State ex rel. DeWine v. Court of Claims of Ohio, Slip Opinion No. 2011-Ohio-5283.]

The Court of Claims lacks jurisdiction to review decisions of the attorney general granting or denying payment of attorney fees in connection with an award of reparations filed on behalf of a victim of a crime.

Submitted May 10, 2011

{¶1} The question we address in this appeal is whether the Court of Claims of Ohio has jurisdiction to entertain an appeal from a decision of the attorney general granting or denying an award of attorney fees for preparing an application for reparations on behalf of a claimant. In this case, the Court of Claims assumed jurisdiction over a decision of the attorney general awarding attorney fees. Subsequently, the attorney general obtained both a writ of mandamus directing the Court of Claims to vacate its decision and dismiss the appeal and a writ of prohibition ordering the Court of Claims to refrain from exercising jurisdiction over similar appeals from other attorney general decisions on attorney fees made pursuant to R.C. 2743.65.

{¶2} The Court of Claims now appeals as of right to this court, contending that it has jurisdiction over all matters related to appeals from decisions of the attorney general regarding awards of reparations, including awards or denials of attorney fees.

{¶3} The Court of Claims lacks jurisdiction to review decisions of the attorney general granting or denying payment of attorney fees in connection with an award of reparations filed on behalf of a victim of a crime. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.

Facts and Procedural History

{¶4} Attorney Jack Carney-DeBord submitted attorney-fee applications to the Ohio Attorney General requesting a total of $1,563.75 for representing Joseph Fletcher in connection with Fletcher's application for crime-victim reparations. Pursuant to the provisions of R.C. 2743.65(A)(2), the attorney general made a maximum final award of $1,020 to Carney-DeBord.

{¶5} After the attorney general denied a request for reconsideration, Carney-DeBord appealed the award of attorney fees to the Court of Claims. The attorney general moved to dismiss that appeal, asserting that the court lacked jurisdiction to act, but a Court of Claims panel of commissioners denied that motion and affirmed the $1,020 attorney fee awarded by the attorney general. In re Fletcher (Feb. 9, 2009), Ct.Cl. No. V2006-20836. The attorney general then appealed the denial of the motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and on review of that appeal, a judge of the Court of Claims affirmed the decision of the panel, concluding that pursuant to R.C. 2743.53(A) and 2743.55(A), the Court of Claims had jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the attorney general's award of attorney fees. In re Fletcher (July 2, 2009), Ct.Cl. No. V2006-20836.

{¶6} The attorney general then sought both a writ of mandamus to compel the Court of Claims to vacate its decision and dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction and a writ of prohibition to prevent the Court of Claims from reviewing similar appeals from other decisions of the attorney general granting or denying requests for attorney fees filed pursuant to R.C. 2743.65.

{¶7} The Tenth District Court of Appeals issued the requested writs, holding that the Victims of Crime Act provides no authority for the Court of Claims to review a decision of the attorney general granting or denying payment of attorney fees for preparing a claim for crime-victim reparations and explaining that the attorney general's decision in this regard is final pursuant to R.C. 2743.65.

{¶8} The Court of Claims now appeals to this court as of right, contending that R.C. 2743.53(A), part of the Victims of Crime Act, vests it with appellate jurisdiction over all matters related to appeals from decisions of the attorney general's award of reparations, including decisions granting or denying payment of attorney fees. The court also maintains that the General Assembly did not expressly state that the attorney general's decision on attorney fees is final and not appealable, and it further asserts that because the fees are paid from the reparations fund, they are a form of reparations. Thus, the Court of Claims believes it has jurisdiction to consider an appeal from a decision of the attorney general granting or denying payment of attorney fees for preparing an application for reparations on behalf of a claimant.

{ΒΆ9} In response, the attorney general argues that because the Court of Claims is a statutorily created court, it may exercise only the jurisdiction specifically conferred upon it by the General Assembly and therefore its appellate jurisdiction may not be implied but must be expressly provided by statute. According to the attorney general, the statute authorizing the payment of fees to an attorney for assisting a claimant in applying for reparations does not also authorize a right to appeal an award of those fees to the Court of Claims. The attorney general further maintains that Carney-DeBord cannot be considered a claimant appealing an award of reparations, because the statutes expressly distinguish between the claimant and the attorney representing the claimant and because the fees charged by an attorney for preparing a claim are excluded by statute from an award of ...


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