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State ex rel. Emhoff v. Medina County Board of Elections

Supreme Court of Ohio

April 27, 2018

The State ex rel. Emhoff
v.
Medina County Board of Elections et al. The State ex rel. Lowery
v.
Medina County Board of Elections et al.

          Submitted April 19, 2018

         In Mandamus and Prohibition.

          Walker & Jocke Co., L.P.A., and Patricia A. Walker, for relator Mary Emhoff

          Patricia F. Lowery, for relator Allen Lowery.

          Heidi R. Carroll, respondent, pro se.

          S. Forrest Thompson, Medina County Prosecuting Attorney, and Michael K. Lyons and Tom J. Karris, Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, for respondents the Medina County Board of Elections and its members.

          Michael DeWine, Attorney General, and Sarah E. Pierce and Andrew Fraser, Assistant Attorneys General, for respondent Jon Husted.

          PER CURIAM

         {¶ 1} To be eligible to serve as a judge on a court of common pleas, a person must satisfy certain requirements, among them that he or she "has, for a total of at least six years preceding the judge's appointment or commencement of the judge's term, engaged in the practice of law in this state." R.C. 2301.01. In these consolidated expedited election cases, relators, Allen Lowery and Mary E. Emhoff, seek writs of mandamus and/or prohibition to prevent respondent Heidi R. Carroll from appearing on the May 8, 2018 ballot as a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for Medina County Common Pleas Court judge, Domestic Relations Division. The question these cases present is whether respondent Secretary of State Jon Husted abused his discretion or acted in clear disregard of applicable law when he determined that Carroll has the requisite 72 months of legal-practice experience to qualify for a seat on the common-pleas-court bench. For the reasons set forth below, we hold that he did not abuse his discretion, and thus, we deny the writs of prohibition. We dismiss the claims for writs of mandamus for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. Background

         {¶ 2} Heidi Carroll was admitted to the Ohio bar in 2002. On April 7, 2017, she filed a Declaration of Candidacy Petition with respondent Medina County Board of Elections seeking to appear on the May 8, 2018 primary ballot as a Republican judicial candidate for the Medina County Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Division.

         {¶ 3} On February 8, 2018, the board officially certified Carroll's petition. On February 13, the board received three separate protests to Carroll's candidacy, one from Lowery, one from Emhoff, and one from Mary L. Guilfoyle, alleging that Carroll lacked the years-of-practice experience required to be a judicial candidate. The protests relied primarily on Carroll's resume, which showed the following professional experience after her graduation from law school in 2001:

• September 2001 to June 2003: Medina County School District, substitute teacher
• September 2003 to December 2007: Cleveland Clinic Foundation, senior compliance specialist
• December 2007 to December 2008: Reminger Co., L.P.A., associate attorney
• June 2010 to November 2010: MetroHealth, associate director of health-information management
• May 2012 to present: University Hospitals, clinical-research regulatory specialist III

         The protesters accepted Carroll's one year at the Reminger law firm as experience in the practice of law. They rejected Carroll's time with the Cleveland Clinic as the practice of law because, they alleged, the position did not require a law degree or law license and her primary duties were "data collection, auditing and reporting, " not " 'furnishing legal counsel, drafting legal documents and pleadings, interpreting and giving advice regarding the law, or preparing, trying, or presenting cases before courts, tribunals, executive departments, administrative bureaus, or agencies, ' " protesters' letters, quoting Gov.Bar R. I(9)(B)(2). However, they noted that she appeared as attorney of record in three Medina County domestic-relations cases between June 2015 and May 2016. Even assuming that that activity should count, they alleged that Carroll was well short of the six-year requirement.

         {¶ 4} Carroll filed a written response to the three protest letters with the board on February 23, 2018. In her response, Carroll asserted that she had been engaged in the practice of law "for at least eight years and five months" and would exceed nine years by the start of her judicial term on January 1, 2019. She identified the following work experience:

• Cleveland Clinic Foundation, senior compliance specialist (four years and four months)
• Reminger Co., L.P.A., associate attorney (one year)
• Akron General Hospital, corporate compliance specialist (three months)
• OhioGuidestone, director of corporate compliance/chief privacy officer, (one year and six months and counting)
• pro bono attorney for Legal Aid (one year and two months and counting) (overlapping with her time at OhioGuidestone)

         Carroll's response included an affidavit from John E. Steiner Jr., her supervisor at the Cleveland Clinic, attesting that she had "actively engaged in the practice of law" at the Cleveland Clinic and describing her work responsibilities.

         {¶ 5} On February 21, counsel for the protestors served a subpoena on the Cleveland Clinic, demanding:

1. a job description of the Senior Compliance Specialist position during any of the time September 2003 to December 2007 * * *;
2. an authentication of the attached job description];
3. a current job description for a similar job as to the Senior Compliance Specialist job; or
4. a copy of a policy of the Cleveland Clinic about who may engage in the practice of law for the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

         {¶ 6} On February 26, the protesters filed a joint reply in support of their protests. Among other points, they noted that Carroll's own description of her job duties at the Cleveland Clinic did not include the tasks identified by Steiner as the duties she performed that constituted the practice of law. The protesters formally requested that the board continue its hearing because the Cleveland Clinic had not yet responded to their subpoena and requested that if the Cleveland Clinic did not respond to the protesters' subpoena, the board issue a subpoena to the Cleveland Clinic for records concerning Carroll's employment and require an attorney from the Cleveland Clinic's Office of General Counsel to appear and testify at the hearing.

         {¶ 7} Also on February 26, the board held an evidentiary hearing on the protests. The transcript indicates that the protestors had presented a request for a subpoena to be issued to OhioGuidestone and that the board declined to issue the subpoena. The protestors again requested a ...


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