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Brookwood Presbyterian Church v. Ohio Department of Education

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 25, 2013

Brookwood Presbyterian Church, Appellant-Appellant,
v.
Ohio Department of Education, Appellee-Appellee.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. No. 08CVF-05-7539.

Buckley King, LPA, and Diem N. Kaelber, for appellant.

Michael DeWine, Attorney General, and Mia Meucci Yaniko, for appellee.

DECISION

DORRIAN, J.

{¶ 1} Appellant, Brookwood Presbyterian Church ("Brookwood"), appeals from the May 8, 2012 judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, which vacated the May 9, 2008 determination of appellee, Ohio Department of Education ("Department"), to deny Brookwood eligibility to be a sponsor of a community school and remanded Brookwood's application to the Department for further proceedings. Because we find the common pleas court did not err in failing to address certain arguments made by Brookwood, which had been rendered moot, we affirm.

I. FACTS

{¶ 2} In November 2007, Brookwood submitted an application to the Department requesting approval as a sponsor of community schools in Ohio pursuant to R.C. 3314.02(C)(1)(f), which allows "education-oriented, " tax-exempt entitities under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to sponsor community schools. Brookwood Presbyterian Church v. Ohio Dept. of Edn., 127 Ohio St.3d 469, 2010-Ohio-5710, ¶ 2 ("Brookwood II "). In March 2008, the Department determined Brookwood was not an "education-oriented" entity as required by R.C. 3314.02(C)(1)(f) and denied Brookwood eligibility to sponsor community schools. Brookwood sought reconsideration, and again the Department determined Brookwood was not eligible. Id. Brookwood filed an administrative appeal in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. In response, the Department filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. The common pleas court agreed and granted the motion to dismiss. Id. at ¶ 3. Brookwood then appealed to this court, which affirmed the trial court's dismissal. Id. at ¶ 4 and Brookwood Presbyterian Church v. Ohio Dept. of Edn., 10th Dist. No. 09AP-303, 2009-Ohio-4645 ("Brookwood I"). Brookwood appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the Supreme Court reversed. Brookwood II. The Supreme Court found the Department's determination to be appealable in accordance with R.C. 119.12 and remanded Brookwood's case back to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on November 30, 2010.

{¶ 3} Following the Supreme Court's decision, on February 11, 2011, the Department filed a motion to remand the issue back to the Department in order to conduct an administrative hearing and create a record on the underlying question of whether Brookwood is an education-oriented entity for the purpose of R.C. 3314.02(C)(1)(f)(iii). Brookwood then filed a motion for judgment in its favor for failure of appellee to file a complete record, pursuant to R.C. 119.12, which the Department opposed.

{¶ 4} Both parties' motions were denied by a magistrate, who rendered a decision on April 1, 2011. The magistrate granted the Department 30 days to file a complete record. Brookwood and the Department filed objections, and the trial court overruled the same. On February 16, 2012, the common pleas court entered an order adopting the magistrate's decision denying the motions. On March 15, 2012, the Department filed the record.

{¶ 5} The parties then filed briefs with the common pleas court regarding the merits of the Department's denial of eligibility. Brookwood argued that the Department's order was not supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence, was not in accordance with law and was arbitrary, as it was not made with reference to any criteria adopted by rule in violation of R.C. 3314.015(B)(3), was facially discriminatory against religious entities based on the Department's application of a religious test, and was unconstitutional in violation of the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and Ohio Constitutions. Brookwood asked the common pleas court to reverse the decision of the Department and render judgment in its favor by finding Brookwood eligible to be a sponsor of community schools. Brookwood also requested fees in accordance with R.C. 2335.39; however, it did not accompany the request with any argument or authority in support thereof. The Department filed a brief in response, arguing that it had applied the criteria outlined in R.C. 3314.02(C)(1)(f)(iii), which reads as follows:

Any person or group of individuals may propose under this division the establishment of a new start-up school to be located in a challenged school district. The proposal may be made to any of the following entities:
(f) Any qualified tax-exempt entity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code as long as all of the following conditions are satisfied:
(i) The entity has been in operation for at least five years prior to applying to be a community school sponsor.
(ii) The entity has assets of at least five hundred thousand dollars and a demonstrated record of ...

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