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McCain v. Huffman

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 28, 2017

McCain, Appellant,
v.
Huffman, Judge, et al., Appellees.

          Submitted June 20, 2017

         Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Montgomery County, No. 27142.

          Michael D. McCain Sr., pro se.

          Michael DeWine, Attorney General, and Sarah E. Pierce and Tiffany L. Carwile, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee Judge Jeffrey E. Froelich.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Michael D. McCain Sr., appeals the dismissal of his complaint for a writ of mandamus against appellees, Judges Mary K. Huffman and Jeffrey E. Froelich. We affirm.

         Background

         {¶ 2} On May 21, 2004, the Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted McCain on charges of felony murder, aggravated robbery, and falsification. On May 25, he was arraigned in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas before Judge Froelich. Judge Froelich entered a not-guilty plea on McCain's behalf after McCain, according to the court's entry, "stood mute." McCain's mandamus complaint alleges that he attempted to plead guilty at his arraignment.

         {¶ 3} McCain's next court appearance was on September 28, 2004, before Judge Huffman. At that time, he pleaded guilty to the felony-murder and aggravated-robbery charges, and the state agreed to dismiss the falsification charge. During the plea colloquy, Judge Huffman erroneously informed McCain that he would be subject to a term of postrelease control on the felony-murder charge. In fact, felony murder is an unclassified felony to which the postrelease-control statute does not apply. E.g., State v. Allen, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-14-1078, 2016-Ohio-2742, ¶ 28.

         {¶ 4} On October 12, 2004, Judge Huffman imposed a sentence that erroneously included postrelease control on both convictions. Judge Huffman later issued a nunc pro tunc entry correcting and vacating the term of postrelease control imposed as to the aggravated-robbery conviction but not the term of postrelease control imposed as to the felony-murder conviction.

         {¶ 5} McCain requested records relating to his arraignment, including video and transcripts, but Judge Huffman denied his request.

         {¶ 6} On June 8, 2016, McCain commenced the present action for a writ of mandamus in the Second District Court of Appeals. He claimed that his attempt to enter a guilty plea at his arraignment before Judge Froelich divested Judge Huffman of jurisdiction to accept the guilty plea that he entered before her. Citing R.C. 149.43 (Ohio's Public Records Act), he demanded "a full copy of the arraignment transcripts, Referee Report and Video." And he alleged various constitutional deprivations and claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, all of which, he asserted, invalidate his plea agreement and require the court to vacate his convictions and release him from prison.

         {¶ 7} Judges Froelich and Huffman filed separate motions to dismiss. On November 15, 2016, the court of appeals dismissed McCain's action. The court first noted that Judge Froelich is no longer a common pleas court judge and therefore has no clear duty to act in that court. The court of appeals therefore granted Judge Froelich's motion to dismiss. The court then dismissed the case in its entirety, holding that Judge Huffman had retained jurisdiction to accept McCain's plea, that McCain's attempt to invoke the Public Records Act was improper, and that habeas corpus, not mandamus, is the appropriate action when an inmate seeks release from confinement.

         {¶ 8} McCain appealed and filed a merit brief. Judges Froelich and Huffman did not file merit briefs. On June 7, 2017, Judge Froelich filed a motion to strike McCain's merit brief on the ground that McCain had failed to serve it properly; in the alternative, Judge Froelich asked the court to order McCain to complete service and allow him time to file a merit brief. McCain timely filed a brief in opposition to the motion to strike, along with a ...


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