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Platt v. Board of Commissioners On Grievances and Discipline of Ohio Supreme Court

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

March 30, 2017

Joseph J. Platt, et al ., Plaintiffs,
v.
Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court, et al ., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Michael R. Barrett United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendants Maureen O'Connor, Richard Dove and Scott Drexel's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 74). Plaintiffs have filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. 76) and Defendants filed a Reply (Doc. 85).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of provisions of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct which prohibits judicial candidates from making public political party speeches and endorsements of another candidate, Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct 4.1(A)(2)-(3); places restrictions on direct, personal monetary solicitation of campaign contributions by judicial candidates, Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct 4.4(A); and limits the window within which donations can be made to a judicial campaign, Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct 4.4(E)-(G). Plaintiffs claim these provisions violate the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of non-incumbent judicial candidates and their campaign committees.[1] Plaintiffs are Joseph Platt, who wishes to run for judicial office, Platt for Judge Campaign Committee, which is Platt's judicial campaign committee, and Mark Miller, who is treasurer for the Committee.

         Counsel for Plaintiffs brought a similar challenge on behalf of incumbent judicial candidates to two of the same provisions of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct. O'Toole v. O'Connor, No. 2:15-CV-1446 (S.D. Ohio) (Graham, J.). Both sets of plaintiffs moved for injunctive relief, which this Court denied in both instances. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the decisions in both cases. Platt v. Bd. of Comm'rs on Grievances & Discipline of Ohio Supreme Court, 769 F.3d 447 (6th Cir. 2014); O'Toole v. O'Connor, 802 F.3d 783 (6th Cir. 2015).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The moving party has the burden of showing an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden of production, the non-moving party cannot rest on his pleadings, but must present significant probative evidence in support of his complaint to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

         B. Standing

         As part of the appeal in this case, the Sixth Circuit observed:

On August 8, 2014, we heard oral arguments. Until then, all involved assumed that Platt fell within Ohio's Judicial Code because Rule 4.6(F) defines “judicial candidate” as “a person who has . . . declared or filed as a candidate for judicial office with the election authority, ” and Platt had filed his initial form. See Appellant Br. 4; Appellees' Br. 11-12. But during the argument, Platt admitted that he failed to file the required petitions to appear on the ballot in 2014. He also apparently missed the deadline to declare his intent to run as a write-in candidate-his last chance for eligibility in 2014-which expired seventy-two days before the general election (August 25, 2014). See OHIO REV. CODE § 3513.041. So despite Platt's still-existing Campaign Committee and his alleged desire to run for judicial office in the future, Platt will not in fact be a candidate in the 2014 election.

Platt v. Bd. of Comm'rs on Grievances & Discipline of Ohio Supreme Court, 769 F.3d 447, 451 (6th Cir. 2014). There have been no changes in this status since 2014. To date, Platt has not filed the petitions necessary to appear on a ballot, and missed the 2016 election cycle. Platt's Campaign Committee still exists, but it is not clear for what purpose, since it reported no contributions or expenditures in 2015. (See Doc. 76-1).

         “Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to ‘Cases' and ‘Controversies, '” and “[t]he doctrine of standing gives meaning to these constitutional limits by ‘identify[ing] those disputes which are appropriately resolved through the judicial process.'” Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 2334, 2341, 189 L.Ed.2d 246 (2014) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992)). On appeal in this case, the Sixth Circuit provided the proper framework to analyze the Article III standing requirement:

The standing requirement ensures that the plaintiff has a personalized injury that the court can directly redress. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). And the ripeness requirement prevents courts from hearing premature or abstract disagreements. See Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148-49, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 18 L.Ed.2d 681 (1967); Carey, 614 F.3d at 196-97. These doctrines “originate from the same Article III limitation” and may be analyzed together as part of “standing.” E.g., Susan B. ...

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