Court No. CRB 1500352ABC
DeWine, Ohio Attorney General, Robert W. Cheugh, II, and
Kenneth H. Egbert., Jr., Assistant Attorneys General, for
William H. Smith, Jr. and Samuel A.J. Sidoti, for appellee.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT
1} Plaintiff-appellant, the state of Ohio, appeals
the September 26, 2016 judgment of the Huron Municipal Court,
granting the motion to dismiss of defendant- appellee, Whites
Landing Fisheries, Inc. For the reasons that follow, we
reverse the trial court judgment.
2} Whites Landing Fisheries ("WLF") is a
company engaged in the commercial fishing industry and
licensed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
("ODNR"). On November 10, 2015, WLF was charged
with three separate counts of harvesting Lake Erie yellow
perch in excess of the established quota, a violation of R.C.
1533.341 and Ohio Adm. Code 1501:31-3-12. Because WLF had two
prior convictions, it faced permanent revocation of its
commercial fishing license if convicted of any of the three
3} Quotas for the harvesting of Lake Erie yellow
perch are determined annually by pound and are allocated by
statistical districts called "management units."
R.C. 1533.341; Ohio Adm.Code 1501:31-3-12(A). Lake Erie
yellow perch "management units" are defined by Ohio
Adm. Code 1501:31-1-02(MMM) as "the geographic area
within the lake Erie fishing district by which yellow perch
quotas are allocated. * * *." The Ohio regulations
define three Lake Erie yellow perch management units.
4} In a letter dated April 14, 2015, ODNR notified
WLF that "there will be no [commercial] allocation [of
yellow perch] in Management Unit 1 (MU1), 1.311 million lbs
in Management Unit 2 (MU2), and 266, 030 lbs in Management
Unit 3 (MU3)." In other words, the 2015 yellow perch
quota for management unit one was zero. The state claims that
WLF harvested yellow perch from management unit one. Two of
the counts against WLF alleged that it harvested 100 pounds
of yellow perch, and one alleged that it harvested 200
5} At issue here are the definitions of
"management unit one" and "management unit
two." Those units are defined by Ohio Adm. Code
1501:31-1-02(MMM) as follows:
(1) Unit 1
(a) Lake Erie yellow perch management unit one shall consist
of all waters in Lucas, Ottawa and Erie counties between east
and west boundaries as defined:
(i) The west boundary is the Michigan-Ohio state line
beginning in Maumee bay and extending northeast to the United
States-Canada international line in Lake Erie including all
waters in Lucas and Ottawa counties.
(ii) The east boundary begins at the Huron pier lighthouse,
extends along an imaginary line running northeast to the
eighty-two degree, thirty minute meridian and
thenceforth along the meridian north to the United
States-Canada international line.
(a) Lake Erie yellow perch management unit two shall consist
of all waters in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties between west
and east boundaries as defined:
(i) The west boundary shall begin in the Huron river,
including all boat ramps or marinas connected to the Huron
river, then extending from the Huron pier lighthouse
along an imaginary line northeast to the eighty-two degree,
thirty minute meridian and thenceforth along that
meridian north to the United States-Canada international
(ii) The east boundary begins at the Fairport harbor light,
extends north along the eighty-one degree, twenty minute
meridian to the United States-Canada international line.
6} WLF argues-and the trial court agreed-that Ohio
Adm. Code 1501:31-1-02(MMM)(1)(a)(ii) and (MMM)(2)(a)(i),
defining the east boundary of management unit one and the
west boundary of management unit two, are ambiguous in their
use of the word "northeast." WLF's argument and
the trial court's conclusion are premised on the fact
that https://www.merriam-webster.com/ provides more
than one definition for "northeast": (a) "the
general direction between north and east, " and (b)
"the point midway between the north and east
compass points." The state insisted that
"northeast" refers to a compass point of 45
degrees, but the court concluded that "northeast"
could refer to any point beyond zero degrees but before 90
degrees. It held, therefore, that "management unit one,
" is unconstitutionally vague, thereby rendering R.C.
1533.341 and Ohio Adm. Code 1501:31-3-12 "void as they
are applied to the violations against" WLF.
7} It is from this judgment that the state appealed.
It assigns the following errors for our review:
OF ERROR 1
OHIO ADM.CODE 1501:31-1-02(MMM) IS NOT VAGUE MERELY BECAUSE
THE RULE DOES NOT DEFINE THE WORD "NORTHEAST" AS
PART OF THE EAST BOUNDARY OF LAKE ERIE YELLOW PERCH
MANAGEMENT UNIT 1 AND TWO ...