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Youngstown City School District Board of Education v. State

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

June 28, 2018

Youngstown City School District Board of Education et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
State of Ohio et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No. 15CV-7311)

         On brief:

          Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld & Lodge L.P.A., James E. Roberts, David S. Barbee, Christine Z. Papa, and Edward L. Ostrowski, for appellant Youngstown City School District Board of Education; R. Sean Grayson, for appellant AFSCME Ohio Council 8 AFL-CIO; Green, Haines, Sgambati, Co., L.P.A., Ira J. Mirkin, and Charles W. Oldfield, for appellants Youngstown Education Association, Ohio Education Association, and Jane Haggerty.

          Bricker & Eckler LLP, Maria J. Armstrong, Nicole M. Donovsky, and Bryan Smeenk, Amicus Curiae Ohio School Boards Association, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, and the Ohio Federation of Teachers, in support of Appellants.

          Organ Cole LLP, Douglas R. Cole, and Carrie M. Lymanstall, for appellees.

         Argued:

          Charles W. Oldfield.

          Carrie M. Lymanstall.

          DECISION

          DORRIAN, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiffs-appellants, Youngstown City School District Board of Education, AFSCME Ohio Council 8, AFL-CIO, Youngstown Education Association, Ohio Education Association, and Jane Haggerty (collectively, "appellants"), appeal from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas denying their claim for declaratory judgment and motion for permanent injunction. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} Appellants challenge the constitutionality of legislation introduced as H.B. No. 70 and ultimately adopted as Am.Sub.H.B. No. 70 by the Ohio General Assembly in 2015. H.B. No. 70 was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives on February 18, 2015, and read for the first time. As introduced, H.B. No. 70 proposed to enact new sections within R.C. Chapter 3302 authorizing school districts and community schools to create community learning centers. On February 25, 2015, H.B. No. 70 was read a second time in the House and referred to the House Education Committee. On May 6, 2015, H.B. No. 70 was reported out of committee with a recommendation that it be passed. On May 19, 2015, H.B. No. 70 was read a third time in the House and passed by a vote of 92 to 6. On May 20, 2015, H.B. No. 70 was introduced in the Ohio Senate and read for the first time. The bill was read a second time in the Senate on May 27, 2015, and referred to the Senate Education Committee.

         {¶ 3} In the Senate Education Committee, H.B. No. 70 was amended twice on the morning of June 24, 2015. One amendment expanded the definition of facilities that were eligible to become community learning centers. The second amendment modified the structure of academic distress commissions under existing law by repealing and replacing existing R.C. 3302.10, enacting a new R.C. 3302.11, and by making changes to other sections in R.C. Chapters 3302 and 3310. The committee adopted the second amendment by a vote of 7 to 5. The committee then voted 8 to 4 to pass the legislation, referred to as Sub.H.B. No. 70.

         {¶ 4} On the afternoon of June 24, 2015, the Senate took up Sub.H.B. No. 70 as reported by the Senate Education Committee. Amendments were adopted on the Senate floor modifying the residency requirement for members of an academic distress commission appointed by the state superintendent of education and indicating that a chief executive officer for a school district appointed by an academic distress commission would serve at the pleasure of the commission; thereafter, the bill was referred to as Am.Sub.H.B. No. 70. Following those amendments, the Senate passed Am.Sub.H.B. No. 70 by a vote of 18 to 14. The same day, Am.Sub.H.B. No. 70 was taken up for consideration in the House. The House voted to concur in the Senate amendments to the bill by a vote of 55 to 40. The governor signed Am.Sub.H.B. No. 70 on July 16, 2015, and the legislation became effective October 15, 2015.

         {¶ 5} On August 21, 2015, appellants filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and permanent injunction in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, alleging the Youngstown City School District was subject to the academic distress commission provisions contained in Am.Sub.H.B. No. 70 and challenging the constitutionality of the law. Appellants also filed a motion for preliminary injunction and requested an evidentiary hearing. After conducting an evidentiary hearing on September 29 and 30, 2015, the trial court issued an order denying appellants' motion for preliminary injunction on October 13, 2015. Appellants appealed the denial of the preliminary injunction to this court. In a decision rendered February 16, 2017, this court dismissed the appeal sua sponte for lack of a final appealable order and remanded the case to the trial court. Youngstown City School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. State of Ohio, 10th Dist. No. 15AP-941, 2017-Ohio-555.

         {¶ 6} On remand, the parties agreed to submit the issues for final determination by the trial court based on the evidence submitted at the hearing conducted on September 29 and 30, 2015, and on briefs to be filed with the court. On October 11, 2017, the trial court issued a decision denying appellants' claims for permanent injunction and declaratory judgment and finding defendants-appellees, State of Ohio, Dr. Richard A. Ross, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Ohio Department of Education, were entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law.

         II. Assignments of Error

         {¶ 7} Appellants appeal and assign the following four assignments of error for our review:

[I.] The trial court erred in finding that Plaintiffs-Appellants did not succeed on the merits of their claims.
[II.] The trial court erred in finding that Plaintiffs-Appellants failed to show irreparable injury.
[III.] The trial court erred in finding that Plaintiffs-Appellants failed to show harm to third parties if an injunction is not granted.
[IV.] The trial court erred in finding that the public interest will not be served by an injunction.

         III. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         {¶ 8} Appellants sought a declaratory judgment that Am.Sub.H.B. No. 70 violated the Ohio Constitution and the United States Constitution. A claim for declaratory judgment is a civil action that provides a remedy in addition to other available legal and equitable remedies. State ex rel. Gelesh v. State Med. Bd., 172 Ohio App.3d 365, 2007-Ohio-3328, ¶ 7 (10th Dist.). Under Ohio's declaratory judgment action statute, "any person whose rights, status, or other legal relations are affected by a * * * statute * * * may have determined any question of construction or validity arising under the * * * statute * * * and obtain a declaration of rights, status, or legal relations under it." R.C. 2721.03. The three essential prerequisites for a declaratory judgment claim are: (1) a real controversy between the parties, (2) the controversy is justiciable, and (3) speedy relief is necessary to preserve the rights of the parties. Gelesh at ¶ 7. A trial court's determination of the justiciability of a declaratory judgment claim is reviewed for abuse of discretion; once a matter is found to be appropriate for declaratory judgment, the trial court's holdings regarding questions of law are reviewed de novo. Arnott v. Arnott, 132 Ohio St.3d 401, 2012-Ohio-3208, ¶ 13.

         {¶ 9} Appellants also sought a permanent injunction preventing enforcement of Am.Sub.H.B. No. 70. "A permanent injunction is an equitable remedy that will be granted only where the act sought to be enjoined will cause immediate and irreparable injury to the complaining party and there is no adequate remedy at law." Franklin Cty. Dist. Bd. of Health v. Paxson,152 Ohio App.3d 193, 2003-Ohio-1331, ¶ 25 (10th Dist). "A party seeking a permanent injunction 'must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they are entitled to relief under applicable statutory law, that an injunction is necessary to prevent irreparable harm, and that no adequate remedy at law exists.'" McDowell v. Gahanna, 10th Dist. No. 08AP-1041, 2009-Ohio-6768, ¶ 9, quoting Acacia on the Green Condominium Assn., Inc. v. Gottlieb, 8th Dist. No. 92145, 2009-Ohio-4878, ¶ 18. See also Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Columbus v. Anderson, 10th Dist. No. 15AP-151, 2015-Ohio-5083, ¶ 11 (holding that party seeking a permanent injunction must show that (1) it prevails on the merits, (2) it will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) no third parties will be unjustifiably harmed if the injunction is granted, and (4) the public interest will be served by the injunction). Clear and convincing evidence is more than a preponderance of the evidence but less than evidence beyond a reasonable doubt; it consists of evidence "which will produce in the mind of the trier of facts a firm belief or conviction as to the facts sought to be established." Cross v. Ledford,1 ...


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