Youngstown City School District Board of Education et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
State of Ohio et al., Defendants-Appellees.
from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No.
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
Cole LLP, Douglas R. Cole, and Carrie M. Lymanstall, for
Charles W. Oldfield.
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
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.
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
[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.
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, ¶
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 ...