to S.C. Reporter 6/28/19
DECISION AND ENTRY
PATRICK M. MCGRATH, JUDGE
Requester Michael Isreal objects to a special master's
recommendation to dismiss Isreal's complaint.
On April 24, 2019, Isreal sued Franklin County Clerk of
Courts Maryellen O'Shaughnessy, asserting a denial of
access to public records in violation of R.C. 149.43. The
court appointed an attorney as a special master in the cause.
On April 26, 2019, the special master recommended dismissal
of Isreal's complaint pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(1) (lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction). One business day after
Isreal received a copy of the special master's
recommendation, Isreal filed a "Memorandum
Contra-Reconsideration Motion" which the court construes
as a written objection to the special master's
Respondent Franklin County Clerk has not filed a response to
Law and Analysis
R.C. 2743.75 does not expressly permit a party to file a
written objection to a special master's recommendation to
dismiss. Compare R.C. 2743.75(D)(2) (stating that
"[n]otwithstanding any provision to the contrary in this
section, upon the recommendation of the special master, the
court of claims on its own motion may dismiss the complaint
at any time") with R.C. 2743.75(F)(2) (permitting either
party to object to special master's report and
recommendation within seven business days after receiving the
report and recommendation by filing a written objection with
the clerk and sending a copy to the other party by certified
mail, return receipt requested).
In the objection Isreal asks that "clear, accurate,
public records be provided to every citizen upon request
within a reasonable time according to The Ohio Public Records
Act. R.C. 149.43 the laws of the State of Ohio, The Sunshine
Law" and that "[t]he Clerk Office to tell why they
have not responded to Isreal's 12/05/2018 Public
Information Requests." A careful review of Isreal's
objection discloses, however, that Isreal has not stated with
particularity any challenge to the special master's
determination that this court lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction relative to Isreal's complaint.
In State ex rel. Village of Richfield v. Laria, 138
Ohio St.3d 168, 2014-Ohio-243, 4 N.E.3d 1040, the Supreme
Court of Ohio discussed the procedure for regulating public
access to court records in actions commenced after July 1,
2009. In Laria, the Court was asked to issue a writ
of mandamus ordering the presiding judge of the Akron
Municipal Court and the clerk of the Akron Municipal Court to
produce records that were claimed to be public under R.C.
149.43. Denying the requested writ, the Ohio Supreme Court
explained: "A threshold issue is whether [the relator]
brought the case under the proper law. [Relator] invokes R.C.
149.43, the Public Records Act, rather than Sup.R. 44 through
47, to obtain court records. We amended the Rules of
Superintendence by adopting Rules 44 through 47, effective
July 1, 2009. Sup.R. 99(KK). Sup.R. 44 through 47 deal
specifically with the procedures regulating public access to
court records and are the sole vehicle for obtaining such
records in actions commenced after July 1, 2009."
(Emphasis added.) Laria at ¶ 8.
And in State ex rel. Husband v. Shanahan, Slip
Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-1853, ¶ 5, the Ohio Supreme Court
recently stated: "When a requester seeks public records
from a court, the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of
Ohio apply. State ex rel. Richfield v. Laria, 138
Ohio St.3d 168, 2014-Ohio-243, 4 N.E.3d 1040, ¶ 8;
see also Sup.R. 47(A)(1). 'Sup.R. 44
through 47 deal specifically with the procedures regulating
public access to court records and are the sole
vehicle for obtaining such records in actions commenced
after July 1, 2009.' (Emphasis added.) Laria at
¶ 8; see also State ex rel. Harris v. Pureval,
155 Ohio St.3d 343, 2018-Ohio-4718, ___ N.E.3d ___ (Rules of
Superintendence apply to inmate's 2017 request for court
records from the 1990s)."
A review of the record before the court discloses that
Isreal's complaint concerns a denial of access in 2018 to
the Franklin County Clerk of Courts' online docket and
e-file system. Thus, Isreal's complaint pertains to a
denial of access to court records. It follows therefore that,
under Laria at ¶ 8 and Shanahan at
¶ 5, Sup.R. 44 through 47 provide Isreal with the sole
vehicle for obtaining access to court records. However, under
R.C. 2743.75(A) this court does not have jurisdiction to
adjudicate disputes arising out of an alleged denial of
access to court records in violation of Sup.R 44 through 47.
Compare R.C. 2743.75(A) (conferring jurisdiction
upon this court to resolve disputes alleging a denial of
access to public records in violation of R.C. 149.43(B)) with
Sup.R. 47(B) (providing that a person aggrieved by the
failure of a court or clerk to comply with the requirements
of Sup.R 44 through 47 may pursue an action in mandamus
pursuant to R.C. Chapter 2731).
The court finds that the special master's recommendation
to dismiss Isreal's complaint for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction is well-taken. The court holds that Isreal's
written objection should be overruled.