from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Case No.
and Martin, LLC, and Joshua Adam Engel, for appellant.
McClellan Binau & Cox PLL, and Mark S. Coco, for
1} Plaintiff-appellant, John Doe
("appellant"), appeals from a judgment of the
Franklin County Court of Common Pleas dismissing his claims
against defendant-appellee, Pontifical College Josephinum
("the Josephinum"), for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction pursuant to the ecclesiastical abstention
doctrine. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the trial
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
2} In December 2015, appellant filed a complaint in
the common pleas court asserting that he was a former student
at the Josephinum in a program designed to prepare students
for careers as priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
Appellant claimed he had enrolled in the Josephinum in August
2010 and was scheduled to graduate in May 2016 with a
master's degree in theology. Appellant alleged that, in
October 2015, he had a meeting with the Rector and Vice
Rector of the Josephinum. At that meeting, the Vice Rector
notified appellant that he had been dismissed from the
Josephinum pursuant to an investigation conducted by the Vice
Rector, in which the Vice Rector determined that there was a
"credible accusation of homosexual activity" by
appellant. (Dec. 9, 2015 Amended Compl. at ¶ 19.)
Appellant was asked to turn in his identification card and
room key and advised to leave the campus of the Josephinum.
The Josephinum subsequently posted a public notice that
appellant had been expelled.
3} Appellant asserted he had requested access to his
academic file, including any disciplinary files, from the
Josephinum. The Josephinum provided certain records, but did
not provide any records related to the alleged misconduct or
his dismissal. Appellant claimed he had appealed his
dismissal from the Josephinum under canon law, but was unable
to present a credible defense in that appeal because he
lacked records from the Josephinum relating to his dismissal.
4} Appellant's complaint asserted claims for
breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, unauthorized disclosure of confidential educational
records, and unjust enrichment. The complaint also sought an
award of attorney fees for bad-faith conduct. The complaint
was filed anonymously and accompanied by a motion for leave
for appellant to proceed under the pseudonym "John
Doe." The common pleas court denied appellant's
motion to proceed under a pseudonym and ordered appellant to
refile his complaint. Appellant refiled the complaint under
his own name.
5} The Josephinum moved to dismiss the complaint
under Civ.R. 12(B)(1), asserting that the common pleas court
lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over appellant's
claims. The Josephinum argued that determination of
appellant's claims would necessarily require the court to
inquire into an ecclesiastical disciplinary process, which
was barred by the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine. The
common pleas court granted the Josephinum's motion to
dismiss, concluding that appellant's claims were
inextricably entangled with his assertion that he was
improperly dismissed from the Josephinum and prevented from
becoming a priest. Therefore, the court reasoned, it would be
impossible to consider the claims in appellant's
complaint without also considering his allegation of improper
dismissal from the Josephinum.
ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR
6} Appellant appeals and assigns the following two
assignments of error for our review:
[I]. THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED ERROR BY DISMISSING THE
COMP[L]AINT PURSUANT TO THE ECCLESIASTICAL ABSTENTION
[II]. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT FAILED TO
PERMIT THE PLAINTIFF TO PROCEED AS JOHN DOE.
7} In his first assignment of error, appellant
asserts that the trial court erred by dismissing his claims
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to the
ecclesiastical abstention doctrine. Appellant argues that the
ecclesiastical abstention doctrine does not apply to the
claims presented in his complaint because they do ...