The State ex rel. WBNS 10-TV, Inc.
Submitted March 26, 2019
Mandamus and Prohibition.
Zeiger, Tigges & Little, L.L.P., and Marion H. Little
Jr., for relator.
O'Brien, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney, and Nick
A. Soulas Jr., Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for
1} This is an original action by relator, WBNS
10-TV, Inc., for writs of prohibition and mandamus against
respondent, Franklin County Common Pleas Domestic Relations
Court Judge Monica Hawkins. Judge Hawkins agrees that a writ
of prohibition should issue, and we hereby grant a writ of
prohibition. We deny the request for a writ of mandamus in
Count One of 10-TV's complaint as moot, deny the requests
in 10-TV's emergency motion for peremptory writs of
prohibition and mandamus as moot, and grant the parties'
stipulated application to dismiss Count Two.
2} On Thursday, January 31, 2019, Judge Hawkins was
arrested for driving under the influence. On February 4, a
reporter for 10-TV made a written request for media access to
the proceedings in Judge Hawkins's courtroom scheduled
for that same day. Judge Hawkins denied the request without
conducting the requisite closure hearing. Her entry denying
10-TV's request was based on the ground that 10-TV did
not give court personnel sufficient advance notice. However,
when 10-TV asked Judge Hawkins's bailiff for a copy of
the court's docket for the next day so that it could make
a more timely request for media access, the court refused.
3} On February 6, 2019, 10-TV commenced an original
action seeking writs of prohibition and mandamus.
Specifically, in Count One of the complaint, 10-TV sought a
writ of prohibition, a writ of mandamus, or both to prevent
Judge Hawkins from closing her courtroom unless and until she
complied with the procedural requirements for doing so. And
in Count Two, 10-TV sought a writ of mandamus to compel Judge
Hawkins to produce the requested docket in compliance with
Ohio's Public Records Act. At the same time that 10-TV
filed the complaint, 10-TV also filed a motion for a
peremptory writ of prohibition or mandamus.
4} In accordance with an order from this court, on
February 12, Judge Hawkins filed an expedited response to
10-TV's complaint and emergency-relief motion. In her
response to Count One of 10-TV's complaint, she wrote
that she "agrees to the issuance of a peremptory writ of
prohibition requiring compliance with Sup.R. 12 and
associated case law." In response to 10-TV's demands for
writs of mandamus to compel the release of public records,
Judge Hawkins affirmed that "all public records
requested by [10-TV] have been provided" and that it was
her understanding that the mandamus requests would be
dismissed as moot.
5} Prohibition is the proper vehicle to challenge a
trial-court order that closes court proceedings. State ex
rel. News Herald v. Ottawa Cty. Court of Common Pleas, Juv.
Div., 77 Ohio St.3d 40, 43, 671 N.E.2d 5 (1996). We
hereby grant a writ of prohibition and vacate any order
denying courtroom access to 10-TV that was issued by Judge
Hawkins without an evidentiary hearing. Our decision renders
moot 10-TV's alternative request for a writ of mandamus,
and we accordingly deny the request on that basis. Likewise,
10-TV's emergency motion for a peremptory writ of
prohibition is denied as moot.
6} With respect to Count Two in 10-TV's
complaint, mandamus is the appropriate remedy by which to
compel compliance with Ohio's Public Records Act, R.C.
149.43. State ex rel. Physicians Comm. for Responsible
Medicine v. Ohio State Univ. Bd. of Trustees, 108 Ohio
St.3d 288, 2006-Ohio-903, 843 N.E.2d 174, ¶ 6. However,
on April 22, 2019, the parties filed a stipulated notice of
partial dismissal pursuant to Civ.R. 41, dismissing Count Two
of the complaint. Pursuant to S.CtPrac.R. 4.05, we grant the
application to dismiss Count Two.
7} In sum, we grant a writ of prohibition, deny the
request for a writ of mandamus in Count One as moot, deny the
motion for peremptory writs as moot, and grant the
application to dismiss Count Two.
prohibition granted and writ of mandamus denied.
O'Connor, C.J., and Kennedy, French, Fischer, DeWine,