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City of Toledo v. State

Supreme Court of Ohio

June 20, 2018

The City of Toledo, Appellee,
v.
The State of Ohio et al., Appellants.

          Submitted April 24, 2018

          Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Lucas County, No. L-15-1286, 2017-Ohio-215.

          Dale R. Emch, Toledo Law Director, and Adam W. Loukx and Joseph V. McNamara, Assistant Law Directors, for appellee.

          Michael DeWine, Attorney General, Eric E. Murphy, State Solicitor, Michael J. Hendershot, Chief Deputy Solicitor, Stephen P. Carney, Deputy Solicitor, and Halli Brownfield Watson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellants.

          KENNEDY, J.

         {¶ 1} In this case, the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas found appellants, the state of Ohio and the attorney general (collectively, "the state"), to be in contempt of a court order that permanently enjoined them from enforcing several statutes that the court had previously declared unconstitutional. The contempt finding was based on the General Assembly's enactment of new statutes that reduced funding to cities that were not acting in compliance with the statutes that had previously been declared unconstitutional. As penalty for the contempt, the court enjoined the state from enforcing the new laws. The Sixth District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. This discretionary appeal from the Sixth District's judgment presents the question whether the trial court had authority to enjoin the state from enforcing the new statutes as punishment for contempt of court.

         {¶ 2} The General Assembly is vested with the legislative power of this state, and it may enact any law that is not in conflict with the Ohio and United States Constitutions. Stetter v. RJ. Corman Derailment Servs., L.L.C., 125 Ohio St.3d 280, 2010-Ohio-1029, 927 N.E.2d 1092, ¶ 36. For this reason, no court may permanently enjoin the enforcement of a statute without first finding it unconstitutional. Further, a court order cannot be enforced in contempt unless the order was "clear and definite, unambiguous, and not subject to dual interpretations." State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hunter, 138 Ohio St.3d 51, 2013-Ohio-5614, 3 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 25. And if a court were to clearly, definitely, and unambiguously order the legislature not to enact specific legislation, that order could not be enforced, because the separation-of-powers doctrine precludes courts from enjoining the General Assembly from exercising its legislative power to enact laws. See State ex rel. Grendell v. Davidson, 86 Ohio St.3d 629, 633, 716 N.E.2d 704 (1999) (the legislature has exclusive control over duties that are purely legislative in character).

         {¶ 3} Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals, vacate the contempt order, and dissolve the injunction against enforcing the spending provisions enacted by 2015 Am.Sub.H.B. No. 64 ("H.B. 64").

         Facts and Procedural History

         SB. 342

         {¶ 4} Since 1999, the city of Toledo has used traffic cameras to civilly enforce traffic laws, specifically speed and traffic-signal laws. See generally Toledo Municipal Code 313.12.

         {¶ 5} In 2014, the General Assembly enacted 2014 Am.Sub.S.B. No. 342 ("SB. 342"), effective March 23, 2015, to regulate the use of traffic cameras by local governments. The act provides, among other things, that a law-enforcement officer must be present whenever a camera is in operation, R.C. 4511.093(B)(1), that speeding tickets may be issued only if the driver exceeded the speed limit by specified amounts, R.C. 4511.0912, and that cities must conduct safety studies and give public notice before placing a new camera at a particular location, R.C. 4511.095. See generally Dayton v. State, 151 Ohio St.3d 168, 2017-Ohio-6909, 87 N.E.3d 176, ¶ 4-9 (lead opinion).

         {¶ 6} The city sued the state and the attorney general seeking injunctive relief and a declaration that S.B. 342 violates the Home Rule Amendment, Article XVIII, Section 3, of the Ohio Constitution. On April 27, 2015, the trial court declared portions of S.B. 342 unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the state "from enforcing Ohio Revised Code Sections 4511.093(B)(1) and (3), 4511.095, 4511.096, 4511.097, 4511.098, 4511.099, 4511.0911(A) and (B), and 4511.0912."

         {¶ 7} The court of appeals affirmed. Toledo v. State, 2016-Ohio-4906, 56 N.E.3d 997 (6th Dist). We accepted the state's appeal and stayed the briefing schedule. Toledo v. State, 147 Ohio St.3d 1411, 2016-Ohio-7455, 62 N.E.3d 184. We later vacated the court of appeals' judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court for application of Dayton v. State, 151 Ohio St.3d 168, 2017-Ohio-6909, 87 N.E.3d 176. Toledo v. State, 151 Ohio St.3d 168, 2017-Ohio-8955, 87 N.E.3d 176. A majority of this court in Dayton held that R.C. 4511.093(B)(1) (the officer-present provision), 4511.0912 (the speeding-leeway provision), and 4511.095 (the study and notice provisions) are unconstitutional. Dayton at ¶ 1 (lead opinion); id at ¶ 36 (French, J., concurring in judgment only).

         H.B. ...


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