Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
APPELLANT Karen Clinton, pro se.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor By: Charles E. Hannan Assistant Prosecuting
BEFORE: S. Gallagher, P.J., Blackmon, J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
C. GALLAGHER, P.J.
Appellant Karen Clinton, pro se, appeals from the trial
court's decision that denied her motion for relief from
judgment and her motion to disqualify. Upon review, we affirm
the trial court's decision.
In December 2001, Clinton filed a worker's compensation
case related to injuries she claimed to have suffered as a
result of exposure to toxic fumes from an incinerator
incident occurring in 1999 while she was working at
MetroHealth System. After the worker's compensation case
was resolved, Clinton, through her attorney, requested
MetroHealth System's records related to the incinerator
On May 5, 2004, and without receiving the requested
documents, Clinton filed a mandamus action against
MetroHealth System, Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-04-530108. Clinton
sought to compel production of records under the Ohio Public
Records Act, R.C. 149.43, and an award of attorney fees. She
also made a claim for forfeiture pursuant to R.C. 149.351 for
destruction of public records and sought other relief.
MetroHealth System filed a motion for summary judgment, in
which it argued that no genuine issues of material fact
remained and that the case was moot because it had submitted
all the materials Clinton had requested. Clinton filed a
motion for partial summary judgment and reserved the issues
of damages and attorney fees for trial. Clinton claimed that
MetroHealth System had originally possessed some of the
requested public records documents but had destroyed them
during building renovations. On July 20, 2005, the trial
court granted MetroHealth System's motion, and denied
The trial court's judgment was affirmed on appeal to this
court. Clinton v. MetroHealth Sys., 8th Dist.
Cuyahoga No. 86886, 2006-Ohio-3582 ("Clinton
I"). In part, the court found that the incinerator was
operated under a "Title V" permit, which required a
three-year record retention period. The court held that
"not only does the record fail to direct this Court on
the tenuous issue of whether additional documentation
existed, the record also reflects that since Clinton's
[public records] request was untimely, MetroHealth cannot be
penalized for any alleged destruction." Id. at
¶ 17-18. Clinton's motion for reconsideration was
denied, and no appeal was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court.
In April 2010, Clinton filed a second mandamus action against
MetroHealth System, upon an expanded public records request,
Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-10-733691. That case also was decided on
summary judgment in favor of MetroHealth System and affirmed
on appeal in State ex rel. Clinton v. MetroHealth
Sys., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 100590, 2014-Ohio-4469
("Clinton II"), discretionary appeal
not allowed, 142 Ohio St.3d 1465, 2015-Ohio-1896, 30
N.E.3d 974. On May 20, 2015, Clinton filed a motion for
relief from judgment in the second mandamus action. That
motion was denied, and the ruling was affirmed on appeal in
State ex rel. Clinton v. MetroHealth Sys., 8th Dist.
Cuyahoga No. 104685, 2017-Ohio-2855.
Also, on May 20, 2015, Clinton filed a motion for relief from
judgment pursuant to Civ.R. 60(B) in the first mandamus
action. Additionally, she filed a motion to disqualify the
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office from representing
MetroHealth System in the Civ.R. 60(B) litigation. Both
motions were denied by the trial court. This appeal was taken
from those rulings.
Clinton raises six assignments of error for our review. As an
initial matter, several of her assignments of error are not
related to the trial court's denial of her motions.
Rather, her second, third, and fifth assignments of error
raise a number of challenges relating to the trial
court's 2005 decision in the first mandamus action and
this court's decision in Clinton I. Clinton
claims, among other assertions, that the trial court should
not have granted MetroHealth System's motion for summary
judgment and that the ruling was against the manifest weight
of the evidence. She claims the decision in Clinton
I was erroneous and that a five-year record retention rule,
as opposed to a three-year record retention rule, should have
applied to her claims. She also challenges certain factual
findings that were made. She further claims that certain
record requests were not addressed in these earlier
decisions. Clinton is precluded by the doctrines of res
judicata and the law of the case from raising these arguments
It is well settled that Civ.R. 60(B) cannot be used as a
substitute for appeal, in which event the doctrine of res
judicata applies. Pilkington N. Am., Inc. v. Toledo
Edison Co., 145 Ohio St.3d 125, 2015-Ohio-4797, 47
N.E.3d 786, ¶ 34. The doctrine of res judicata bars
claims that were or could have been raised on direct appeal.
M & T Bank v. Steel, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No.
101924, 2015-Ohio-1036, ¶ 13.
Further, the law of the case doctrine precludes a litigant
from raising arguments "which were fully pursued, or
available to be pursued, in a first appeal." Hubbard
ex rel. Creed v. Sauline,74 Ohio St.3d 402, 404-405,
1996-Ohio-174, 659 N.E.2d 781. Pursuant to the doctrine of
the law of the case, "the decision of a reviewing court
in a case remains the law of that case on the legal questions
involved for all subsequent proceedings in the case at both
the trial and reviewing levels." Nolan v.
Nolan,11 Ohio St.3d 1, 3, 462 N.E.2d 410 (1984). The
doctrine has been deemed necessary "to ensure
consistency of results in a case, to avoid ...