FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. D00014812
P. WILL, Prosecuting Attorney, and JENNIFER GOUDALL,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellant.
BRANDON OLIVER, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
A. TEODOSIO, JUDGE.
The Lorain County Child Support Enforcement Agency
("CSEA") appeals the judgment entry of the Lorain
County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division,
rejecting the magistrate's decision, dismissing the
motion to show cause, and finding the trial court was without
jurisdiction to hold Daniel Esterle in contempt for failure
to pay on a lumpsum judgment. We reverse and remand.
In April 2006, a magistrate's decision, which was adopted
by the trial court in July 2006, reduced to a lump-sum
judgment Mr. Esterle's unpaid child support arrearages in
the amount of $35, 522.09. The State of Ohio filed a motion
in contempt against Mr. Esterle for his failure to pay child
support, and in December 2015, a magistrate's decision
found Mr. Esterle in contempt and sentenced him to 90 days in
jail. The trial court conducted a hearing on Mr.
Esterle's objection to the magistrate's decision, and
in June 2016, entered a judgment rejecting the
magistrate's decision and dismissing the contempt
proceedings. The CSEA now appeals, raising one assignment of
OF ERROR ONE
TRIAL COURT ERRORED AS A MATTER OF LAW AND ABUSED ITS
DISCRETION WHEN IT DISMISSED THE MOTION IN CONTEMPT FOR
FAILURE TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT AGAINST DEFENDANT, DANIEL
The CSEA argues the trial court erred in dismissing the
contempt proceedings against Mr. Esterle. We agree.
The CSEA contends the trial court incorrectly applied Article
I, Section 15, of the Ohio Constitution, which prohibits a
court from imprisoning a person for a debt in a civil action,
to the lump-sum judgment against Mr. Esterle. "[W]hether
the trial court made an error as a matter of law in applying
the incorrect legal standard is a question that we review de
novo." State v. Moss, 9th Dist. Summit No.
24511, 2009-Ohio-3866, ¶ 8. "When a court's
judgment is based on an erroneous interpretation of the law,
an abuse-of-discretion standard is not appropriate."
Med. Mut. of Ohio v. Schlotterer, 122 Ohio St.3d
181, 2009-Ohio-2496, ¶ 13. Therefore, this is not a
review of a trial court's finding in a contempt action
that would be reviewed for an abuse of discretion. See
Morrow v. Becker, 9th Dist. Medina No. 11CA0066-M,
2012-Ohio-3875, ¶ 47.
The trial court found that because the child support
arrearages were reduced to a lump-sum judgment, and no
further arrears had accumulated since that judgment, it was a
civil debt for which imprisonment is prohibited under Article
I, Section 15, of the Ohio Constitution, which provides:
"No person shall be imprisoned for debt in any civil
action, on mesne or final process, unless in cases of
fraud." In its analysis, the trial court stated that the
Supreme Court of
Ohio's holding in Young v. Young, 70 Ohio St.3d
679 (1994), which was based upon the authority of Cramer
v. Petrie,70 Ohio St.3d 131 (1994), was "narrower
than it appears, " and "upholds the use of
imprisonment for contempt to enforce only those child support
arrearages that have not been reduced to a lump sum
judgment." In support of this proposition, the trial