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State ex rel. Novak, Pavlik, Deliberato, L.L.P v. Ambrose

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

July 25, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, EX REL. NOVAK, PAVLIK, DELIBERATO, L.L.P., ET AL. RELATORS
v.
JUDGE DICK AMBROSE RESPONDENT

          Writ of Prohibition Motion No. 517371 Order No. 518447

          ATTORNEYS FOR RELATORS For Novak, Pavlik, Deliberato, L.L.P. William J. Novak Novak, L.L.P., For Matthew D. Deliberato Colin P. Sammon Ritzler, Coughlin & Paglia

          ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor By: Charles E. Hannan Assistant County Prosecutor

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          SEAN C. GALLAGHER, J.

         {¶1} Relators, the law firm of Novak L.L.P., formerly known as Novak, Pavlik, Deliberato, L.L.P., William J. Novak, Thomas C. Pavlik, and Matthew D. Deliberato, seek a writ of prohibition to stop respondent judge from exercising jurisdiction over the individual defendants in PSIC v. Novak, L.L.P., Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-16-867801. We grant respondent judge's motion for summary judgment and deny the writ.

         BACKGROUND

         {¶2} The underlying common pleas court case involves a dispute between a law firm and its malpractice insurance provider over the payment of a $10, 000 deductible. The genesis of the dispute lies in an insurance claim paid by the company on behalf of the law firm. The law firm failed to pay the $10, 000 deductible set forth in the policy for such a claim. As a result, the insurance company, in order to resolve the matter and pursuant to express policy terms, paid the deductible amount, and then sued the firm and its attorneys to collect the deductible.

         {¶3} The collection case spanned the better part of two years without resolution. A jury found in favor of the insurance company and awarded the insurance company $10, 000 for the deductible, plus $103, 479 in collection expenses. The respondent judge entered a judgment against the law firm with those terms on March 1, 2018.

         {¶4} At the conclusion of this case, relators filed the instant action to prohibit respondent judge from continuing to exercise jurisdiction over the individual attorneys involved in the case.

         STANDARD FOR A WRIT OF PROHIBITION

         {¶5} In order to demonstrate entitlement to a writ of prohibition, one must show: (1) the respondent against whom it is sought is about to exercise judicial power, (2) the exercise of such power is unauthorized by law, and (3) there is no adequate remedy at law. State ex rel Largent v. Fisher, 43 Ohio St.3d 160, 540 N.E.2d 239 (1989). "The writ will not issue to prevent an erroneous judgment, or to serve the purpose of appeal, or to correct mistakes of the lower court in deciding questions within its jurisdiction." State ex rel Sparto v. Juvenile Court of Darke Cty., 153 Ohio St. 64, 65, 90 N.E.2d 598 (1950).

         {¶6} Courts must not issue such a writ in a doubtful case. State ex rel Merion v. Court of Common Pleas, 137 Ohio St. 273, 28 N.E.2d 641 (1940). However, when it is clear that a court patently and unambiguously is without jurisdiction to act whatsoever, a writ should issue without regard to whether an alternative adequate remedy exists. State ex rel Tilford v. Crush, 39 Ohio St.3d 174, 529 N.E.2d 1245 (1988). We view these guideposts through the lense of the summary judgment standard set forth in Civ.R. 56(C).

         ANALYSIS

         {¶7} There is no dispute that respondent judge is exercisng judicial power. The dispute centers on whether that exercise of power is unauthorized by law. Relators argue that respondent judge patently and unambiguously lacks jurisdiction. This argument is built around the presumption that sections of the Ohio Uniform Partnership Act, codified in R.C. 1776.01 et seq., precludes individual liability for the ...


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