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State ex rel. City of East Cleveland v. Norton

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District

August 27, 2013


WRIT DENIED Writ of Mandamus Motion Nos. 464138, 464139 Order No. 466691.

For city of East Cleveland Darryl E. Pittman Pittman Alexander Attorneys Michael Aten

For Mansell Baker and Nathaniel Martin Michael Aten Westgate Towers, Suite

For Dr. Joy Jordan, Chantelle Lewis, and Barbara Thomas Darryl E. Pittman Pittman Alexander Attorneys

For Gary Norton, Mayor, and Irene Crowell, Director of Finance HilaryS. Taylor Weston Hurd, L.L.P. The Tower at Erieview

For Ronald K. Riley, Director of Law Shawn W. Maestle Weston Hurd, L.L.P. The Tower at Erieview



(¶ 1} The city of East Cleveland, Dr. Joy Jordan, Chantelle Lewis, Nathaniel Martin, Barbara Thomas, and Mansell Baker (hereinafter referred to as "relators"), have filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus.[1] The relators allege that Gary Norton, Mayor of East Cleveland, Irene Crowell, Finance Director of East Cleveland, and Ronald K. Riley, Law Director of East Cleveland (hereinafter referred to as "respondent Mayor, " "respondent Finance Director, " and "respondent Law Director"), have violated duties imposed by the Charter and Codified Ordinances of the City of East Cleveland, Ohio.[2] The relators, as well as the respondents, have all filed motions for summary judgment with supporting affidavits and other evidentiary material. We deny the relators' motion for summary judgment and grant the respondents' motion for summary judgment, albeit for different reasons and arguments than presented by the respondents.


(¶ 2} In order for this court to issue a writ of mandamus, the relators are required to establish: (1) the relators possess a clear legal right to the requested relief, (2) the respondents possess a clear duty to perform the requested relief and (3) there must exist no other adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law. State ex rel. Ney v. Niehaus, 33 Ohio St.3d 118, 515 N.E.2d 914 (1987). Furthermore, if the relators possessed an adequate remedy, regardless of whether it was used, relief in mandamus is precluded. State ex rel. Tran v. McGrath, 78 Ohio St.3d 45, 1997-Ohio-245, 676 N.E.2d 108. Moreover, mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that is to be exercised with caution and issued only when the right and duty is absolutely clear. Mandamus will not issue in doubtful cases. State ex rel. Taylor v. Glasser, 50 Ohio St.2d 165, 364 N.E.2d 1 (1977); State ex rel. Shafer v. Ohio Turnpike Comm., 159 Ohio St. 581, 113 N.E.2d 14 (1953); State ex rel. Connole v. Cleveland Bd. Of Edn., 87 Ohio App.3d 43, 621 N.E.2d 850 (8th Dist. 1993); State ex rel. Dayton-Oakwood Press v. Dissinger, 32 Ohio Law Abs. 308, 1940 Ohio App. LEXIS 1173 (2d Dist. 1940). The Supreme Court of Ohio has also firmly established that the facts submitted in support of the complaint for mandamus and the proof produced must be plain, clear and convincing before a court is justified in using the "strong arm of the law" by way of granting a writ of mandamus. State ex rel. Pressley v. Indus. Comm. of Ohio, 11 Ohio St.2d 141, 228 N.E.2d 631 (1967).

(¶ 3} In addition to the basic requirements that must be established by the relators, the following principles of law guide this court's determination as to whether a writ of mandamus should be issued on behalf of the relators. Mandamus lies only to enforce the performance of a ministerial duty or act. A ministerial duty or act has been defined as one that a person performs in a given state of facts in a prescribed manner in the obedience to the mandate of legal authority, without regard to, or the exercise of, his own judgment upon the propriety of the act being done. State ex rel. Neal, Jr. v. Moyer, 3d Dist. Allen No. 1-84-44, 1985 Ohio App. LEXIS 5380 (Jan. 9, 1985). The object of a writ of mandamus is to compel an officer to do a specific act required by law, and not to compel the general enforcement of the mandate of the law.

* * * [A]nd while a court might well hold that the general course of conduct contended for by the relator, and which he seeks to have the plaintiff commanded to follow, is the course of conduct which the law requires, and, therefore, the course which the [respondent] is in duty bound to pursue, yet a court will not employ the extraordinary writ of mandamus to supplant every other form of remedy, for if it be employed to compel the observance of law generally, the court would thereby constitute itself the public conscience, and all others would become its agents through which the court would, within the law, exercise its will. The function of a court is to render judgment in actual controversies between adverse litigants, to command or restrain specific acts affecting existing rights of parties before the court, as distinguished from declaratory judgments affecting possible rights and potential controversies.

State ex rel. Cullen v. Toledo, 105 Ohio St. 545, 138 N.E. 58 (1922). See also State ex rel. Keyser v. Commrs. of Wayne Cty., 57 Ohio St. 86, 48 N.E. 136 (1897).

(¶ 4} It must also be noted that if the allegation of a complaint for a writ of mandamus demonstrates that the real object sought is a declaratory judgment and a prohibitory injunction, the complaint does not state a cause of action in mandamus and must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. State ex rel. Esarco v. Youngstown CityCouncil, 116 Ohio St.3d 131, 2007-Ohio-5699, 876 N.E.2d 953; State ex rel. Obojski v.Perciak, 113 Ohio St.3d 486, 2007-Ohio- ...

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