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State ex rel. Bradford v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

August 22, 2017

State ex rel. Pele K. Bradford, Relator,
v.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Respondent.

         IN MANDAMUS ON OBJECTIONS TO THE MAGISTRATE'S DECISION

         On brief:

          Pele K. Bradford, pro se.

          Michael DeWine, Attorney General, and Ina Avalon, for respondent.

          DECISION

          SADLER, J.

         {¶ 1} Relator, Pele K. Bradford, an inmate of the Lebanon Correctional Institution, brings this original action seeking a writ of mandamus ordering respondent, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("DRC"), to correct its records consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Ohio in State ex rel. Bradford v. Dinkelacker, 146 Ohio St.3d 219, 2016-Ohio-2916, and to conduct another review of his application for executive clemency filed April 24, 2014.[1] DRC moved this court to dismiss the complaint, pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6), for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.

         {¶ 2} Pursuant to Civ.R. 53 and Loc.R. 13(M) of the Tenth District Court of Appeals, we referred this matter to a magistrate who rendered a decision and recommendation that includes findings of fact and conclusions of law, which is appended hereto. Therein, the magistrate determined that the Bradford decision does not present "significant new information that was not and could not have been presented in the earlier application." Ohio Adm.Code 5120:1-1-15(I). The magistrate concluded that relator's complaint failed to state a claim on which a writ of mandamus may be granted. Accordingly, the magistrate recommended dismissal of the complaint.

         {¶ 3} On March 30, 2017, relator filed the following objections to the magistrate's decision:

I. The Magistrate failed to employ the proper legal analysis for Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motions in accordance with the Tenth Appellate District Court's rationale in Modern Office Methods, Inc. v. Ohio Sate Univ., 2012-Ohio-3587.
II. The Magistrate has taken the relief sought by relator out of context.
III. The Magistrate's analysis is clearly erroneous when this Honorable Court considers the Ohio Supreme Court's findings in Layne v. Ohio Adult Parole Authority, 97 Ohio St.3d 456.
IV. In the interest of justice, this Honorable Court cannot adopt the "sweep it under the rug" approach proffered by the magistrate in this matter.

         {¶ 4} In his first objection, relator argues that the magistrate failed to conduct the proper review of his complaint pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6) and this court's decision in Modern Office Methods, Inc. v. Ohio State Univ., 10th Dist. No. 11AP-1012, 2012-Ohio-3587. Appellant's argument in support of his objection, however, does not explain how the magistrate misapplied the rule or this court's prior decision in Modern Office Methods. Appellant's conclusory assertion notwithstanding, our review of the magistrate's analysis reveals compliance with Civ.R. 12(B)(6) and Modern Office Methods. Accordingly, appellant's first objection is overruled.

         {¶ 5} In his second objection, relator contends that the magistrate misconstrued his claim in recommending dismissal of his complaint. We disagree.

         {¶ 6} The crux of appellant's claim is that in 2004 the trial court erroneously convicted him of "[aggravated Murder with Specifications #1 and #2, 2903-01A/ORCN, SF, " even though the jury found him guilty of "Aggravated Murder 2903.01(B) as charged in Count I of the Indictment." Bradford at ¶ 2. Appellant now seeks a writ of mandamus ordering DRC to acknowledge the sentencing court's error, correct its record with regard to the offense for which he was convicted, and to reconsider his April 24, 2014 application for clemency in accordance with State ex rel. Keith v. Ohio Adult Parole Auth., 141 Ohio St.3d 375, 2014-Ohio-4270.

         {¶ 7} In both its motion to dismiss relator's complaint and in its response to relator's objections, DRC argues that relator is not entitled to a writ of mandamus because relator had an adequate remedy at law by way of an appeal both from his 2004 conviction and Judge Dinkelacker's subsequent entry denying his motion to correct the judgment entry. The Supreme Court of Ohio reached this very conclusion in denying relator's mandamus action filed in the First District Court of Appeals seeking an order requiring Judge Dinkelacker to correct the judgment entry of relator's conviction. Therein, the court found as follows:

To be entitled to extraordinary relief in mandamus, Bradford must establish a clear legal right to the requested relief, a clear legal duty on the part of Judge Dinkelacker to provide it, and the lack of an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law. State ex rel. Waters v. Spaeth, 131 Ohio St.3d 55, 2012-Ohio-69, ¶ 6, 960 N.E.2d 452.
Appeal is generally considered an adequate remedy sufficient to preclude a writ of mandamus. Shoop v. State, 144 Ohio St.3d 374, 2015-Ohio-2068, ¶ 8, 43 N.E.3d 432, citing State ex rel. Pressley v. Indus. Comm., 11 Ohio St.2d 141, 228 N.E.2d 631 (1967), paragraph three of the syllabus. Bradford could have raised the mistake in the original journal entry as part of his direct appeal of his conviction. He also could have appealed Judge Dinkelacker's entry denying his motion to correct the judgment entry. He therefore had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law.

Bradford at ¶ 5-6.

         {¶ 8} For similar reasons, relator's mandamus action against DRC must also be dismissed. Contrary to appellant's assertion, the court in Bradford did not hold that Judge Dinkelacker's judgment entry of conviction and sentence contained an error. Rather, the court determined that relator had an adequate remedy at law by way of a direct appeal from the judgment entry of conviction or an appeal from Judge Dinkelacker's subsequent entry denying relator's motion to correct the judgment entry. The Supreme Court decision in Bradford makes it clear that res judicata barred relator from relitigating the alleged error in the judgment of conviction in any subsequent action and that Judge Dinkelacker's journalized judgment entry is no longer subject to correction. Id. Because the legal remedy of appeal had been available to relator, the Supreme Court dismissed relator's complaint seeking a writ of mandamus. Id.

         {¶ 9} As the Supreme Court recognized in Bradford, relator had an opportunity to remedy any alleged error in the judgment of conviction either by a direct appeal from his conviction or an appeal from Judge Dinkelacker's entry denying his motion to correct the judgment entry. However, relator failed to appeal from either judgment.

         {¶ 10} In Thompson v. Wing, 70 Ohio St.3d 176 (1994), the Supreme Court set forth three requirements for application of collateral estoppel or issue preclusion. State ex rel. Davis v. Pub. Emps. Retirement Bd., 174 Ohio App.3d 135, 2007-Ohio-6594, ¶ 18 (10th Dist.). "Collateral estoppel applies when the fact or issue (1) was actually and directly litigated in the prior action, (2) was passed upon and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, and (3) when the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a party in privity with a party to the prior action." Thompson at 183. "The essential test in determining whether the doctrine of collateral estoppel is to be applied is whether the party against whom the prior judgment is being asserted had full representation and a 'full and fair opportunity to litigate that issue in the first action.' " Cashelmara Villas Ltd. Partnership v. Dibenedetto, 87 Ohio App.3d 809, 813 (8th Dist.1993), quoting Hicks v. De La Cruz, 52 Ohio St.2d 71, 74-75 (1977).

         {¶ 11} Because relator did not exhaust available legal remedies to correct the alleged error in the judgment of conviction, the judgment entry of conviction is conclusive as to the offense for which appellant was convicted. Bradford; Thompson. Because the trial court judgment of conviction is no longer subject to correction, relator does not have a clear right to the relief requested in his complaint, and DRC does not have a clear legal duty to "correct" its record. Here, DRC's record is consistent with the final, unappealed judgment entries at issue. Accordingly, the magistrate was correct in determining that nothing in the Bradford decision imposes a duty on DRC to correct its record regarding relator's conviction. We agree with the magistrate.

         {¶ 12} For the foregoing reasons, relator's second objection is overruled.

         {¶ 13} In his third objection, relator argues that the magistrate's conclusion that DRC did not have a duty to correct its record in considering his clemency application conflicts with the decision of the Supreme Court in Layne v. Ohio Adult Parole Auth., 97 Ohio St.3d 456, 2002-Ohio-6719. In support of this argument, relator cites the following language from the Layne decision wherein the Supreme Court approved the reasoning of the Second District Court of Appeals in Randolph v. Ohio Adult Parole Auth., 2d Dist. No. 99-CA-17 (Jan. 21, 2000):

[T]he court in Randolph determined that the APA must begin its decision-making process concerning parole eligibility by assigning an inmate the offense category score that corresponds to the actual offense of which the inmate was convicted.

Layne at ¶ 25.

         {¶ 14} Without deciding whether the rule of law in Layne applies to clemency applications, we recognize that the Supreme Court decision in Bradford makes clear that Judge Dinkelacker's journalized judgment entry is no longer subject to correction. Pursuant to Bradford, relator's conviction of "[aggravated Murder with Specifications #1 and #2, 2903-01A/ORCN, SF" is legally correct. Id. at ¶ 2. Thus, we agree with the magistrate's conclusion that the Bradford decision does not constitute "significant new information that was not and could not have been presented in the earlier application." Ohio Adm.Code 5120:1-1-15(I). Accordingly, relator's third objection is overruled.

         {¶ 15} In relator's fourth objection, relator criticizes the magistrate for "refusing to take any action" to "rectify this gross injustice." (Objs. at 5.) As noted above, the Bradford decision makes it clear that relator's previous failure to exhaust the legal remedies available to him following his conviction prevents this court from granting the relief appellant now requests. Unlike the error made by the parole authority in Keith where the parole authority miscalculated the number of times the applicant had been paroled, the alleged error in this case was made by the trial court in the journalized judgment of conviction, a judgment which is no longer subject to correction.

         {¶ 16} For the foregoing reasons, relator's fourth objection is overruled.

         {¶ 17} Following an independent review of the magistrate's decision and the objections filed by relator, we find that the magistrate has determined the pertinent facts and properly applied the relevant law. Accordingly, we adopt the magistrate's decision as our own, including the findings of fact and conclusions of law as modified herein. For the reasons set forth in the magistrate's decision and those expressed herein, relator's objections are overruled, and relator's complaint is dismissed.

         Objections overruled; motion to dismiss granted; writ ...


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