Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
Appeal From: Hamilton County Municipal Court Trial Nos.
Crawford Glanker, LLC, and John R. Glankler, for
Wills, for Appellant.
Appellant-attorney John H. Forg appeals the judgment of the
Hamilton County Municipal Court awarding sanctions in the
form of attorney fees to plaintiff-appellee 217 Williams,
LLC, ("appellee"). Because the court did not abuse
its discretion by awarding fees, we affirm.
On June 30, 2017, the appellee filed an action for forcible
entry and detainer and money damages against Stewart Worthen,
Forg's client and the appellee's tenant, for
Worthen's nonpayment of his portion of June rent and fees
related to the late payment of May's rent. Worthen, who
received a housing voucher from the Cincinnati Metropolitan
Housing Authority ("CMHA") due to a disability, was
obligated in June to pay $172 of the contractual rent of
$571. Also on June 30, Worthen's lease terminated,
consistent with the notice of nonrenewal that the appellee
had provided Worthen more than 30 days prior. The same day,
Worthen filed an action claiming that the termination of his
month-to-month tenancy was in retaliation for his complaints
to CMHA about various issues. Worthen's complaint for
retaliation contained a jury demand.
Worthen paid his June rent into escrow on July 13 and
answered the appellee's complaint by denying the
nonpayment of rent and raising the defense of a retaliatory
The appellee's cause of action for forcible entry and
detainer was scheduled to be heard in July 2017 before a
magistrate. At Worthen's request, the two cases were
consolidated and continued indefinitely, but the magistrate
ordered Worthen to pay into the court the unsubsidized amount
of $172 by July 31 for July's rent and the entire
contract amount of $571 by the 5th day of each subsequent
month thereafter, beginning in August, until the resolution
of the claims. Although the record does not contain a
transcript from that hearing, the parties agree that the
magistrate ordered the higher rent amount because CMHA had
stopped making Worthen's subsidy payments for that
apartment after the appellee had notified CMHA that
Worthen's lease would not be renewed.
Worthen failed to pay July's rent into escrow by July 31,
and on August 2, the appellee moved for an immediate hearing
on the forcible entry and detainer claim so that it could
take possession of the apartment unit.
In response, Forg, on behalf of Worthen, filed objections to
the part of the magistrate's July 28 order requiring a
rent bond in the amount of $571 beginning in August and
requested a stay. Forg indicated in the introduction to the
objections that the document was filed pursuant to Loc.R.
XXIV of the Hamilton County Municipal Court ("Loc.R.
XXIV"). Forg additionally amended Worthen's
complaint to add claims alleging that the appellee and its
general manager, Christopher Dixon, had discriminated against
Worthen due to his disability in violation of R.C. Chapter
4112. If successful, these claims would jeopardize the
appellee's contracts with CMHA. In addition to a general
allegation of discrimination, the amended complaint contained
a specific allegation that the appellee and Dixon had
discriminated against Worthen by seeking a rent bond for the
full contract amount with knowledge that Worthen was disabled
and therefore could not afford to pay the contract amount.
On August 14, the appellee and Dixon moved to dismiss
Worthen's amended complaint, in part due to Worthen's
failure to state a claim for relief for unlawful
discriminatory treatment. On the same date, Worthen finally
made an escrowed payment for July's rent, but he did not
make a payment for August's rent in any amount, even
though the magistrate's rent bond order was never stayed.
On August 18, the court notified the parties that a hearing
had been scheduled on the pending matters, including the
appellee's motion to proceed with the forcible entry and
detainer claim. When Forg appeared at the hearing on August
30, he told the trial judge that he had filed a grievance
against the judge based on conduct in an unrelated case and
contended the judge was required to recuse. The judge
continued the case for a week to research the issue. The
following day, Worthen made an escrowed payment, but only in
the amount of his unsubsidized rent. Forg filed an Affidavit
of Disqualification with the Ohio Supreme Court, staying the
case. The Supreme Court dismissed the affidavit on the ground
that it was not timely filed.
Subsequently, the trial judge, after a hearing, overruled
Worthen's objections to the continuance bond. As Worthen
had failed to comply with the terms of the continuance bond,
the judge granted the appellee's motion to set a date for
a forcible entry and detainer hearing. Forg then filed a
second Affidavit of Disqualification with the Ohio Supreme
Court, in which he explained the lateness of his first
affidavit. The Supreme Court accepted the filing as timely
but denied the affidavit on the merits.
The forcible entry and detainer cause of action was tried
before a magistrate on October 10 and judgment was entered
for the appellee granting restitution of the premises for the
nonpayment of rent. Worthen was set out on October 20. After
the set out, Forg, on behalf of Worthen, voluntarily
dismissed Worthen's complaint, and Worthen admitted to
Dixon that his attorney had "tak[en] these legal actions
in order to buy him more time" in the apartment. The
appellee moved for sanctions against Forg and Worthen under
R.C. 2323.51 and Civ.R. 11.
The case then proceeded to a hearing before the judge on the
appellee's cause of action for damages, which resulted in
a judgment for the appellee and against Worthen in the amount
Later, the court considered the appellee's motion for
sanctions. At the sanctions hearing, Dixon testified to
Worthen's comments about Forg's intent to delay the
eviction process. Forg objected to this testimony on hearsay
grounds, but later withdrew the objection. Finding frivolous
conduct, the trial court granted the appellee's ...