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State ex rel. Carter v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

July 17, 2019

STATE OF OHIO EX REL., JEROME CARTER, Relator,
v.
JUDGE WANDA JONES, Respondent.

          Writ of Mandamus Order No. 529858

          Jerome Carter, pro se.

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, for respondent.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          MICHELLE J. SHEEHAN, JUDGE

         {¶ 1} On June 19, 2019, the relator, Jerome Carter, commenced this mandamus action. He named Judge Michael Donnelly as the respondent. [1] Carter seeks to compel the judge "to do [her] clear and legal duty and cause realtor [sic] to receive requested public records information according to R.C.§149.43 (B)(1) For the following reasons, this court dismisses the application for a writ of mandamus sua sponte.

         {¶ 2} In early March 2019, Carter made a written public records request to the city of Cleveland for all records, information, or data under his name, and for all records related to the case of State v. Carter, Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-04-458958-B.[2] He also sought records relating to the processing of fingerprints, including any disciplinary actions against anyone working with fingerprints and on which cases such individuals worked.

         {¶ 3} On March 12, 2019, Cleveland's Law Department replied that pursuant to R.C. 149.43(B)(8), the requested records are not releasable without a finding by the sentencing judge that the information sought is necessary to support what appears to be a justiciable claim. Carter then commenced this mandamus action.

         {¶ 4} The requisites for mandamus are well established: (1) the relator must have a clear legal right to the requested relief, (2) the respondent must have a clear legal duty to perform the requested relief, and (3) there must be no adequate remedy at law. Additionally, although mandamus may be used to compel a court to exercise judgment or to discharge a function, it may not control judicial discretion, even if that discretion is grossly abused. State ex rel. Ney v. Niehaus, 33 Ohio St.3d 118, 515 N.E.2d 914 (1987). Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that is to be exercised with caution and only when the right is clear. It should not issue in doubtful cases. State ex rel Taylor v. Glasser, 50 Ohio St.2d 165, 364 N.E.2d 1 (1977); State ex rel Shafer v. Ohio Turnpike Comm., 159 Ohio St. 581, 113 N.E.2d 14 (1953); State ex rel Connole v. Cleveland Bd. of Edn., 87 Ohio App.3d 43, 621 N.E.2d 850 (8th Dist.1993).

         {¶ 5} To the extent that Carter is seeking to compel the respondent judge to issue a journal entry, his complaint is ill-founded. The Ohio Public Records statute, R.C. 14943(B)(8), provides that a person responsible for public records is not required to permit a person who is incarcerated pursuant to a criminal conviction to inspect or obtain copies of any public records concerning a criminal investigation or prosecution unless the judge who imposed the sentence or the judge's successor in office finds that the information sought in the public records is necessary to support what appears to be a justiciable claim of the person. A review of the docket in the underlying case shows that Carter has not asked the respondent judge to make such a finding. Without fulfilling this necessary prerequisite, there is no basis for a writ of mandamus. Compare State ex rel Cincinnati Enquirer v. Deters, 148 Ohio St.3d 595, 2016-Ohio-8195, 71 N.E.3d 1076, ¶ 20 - a prior request is a prerequisite to a mandamus action.

         {¶ 6} Moreover, even if Carter had made a request under R.C. 149.43(B)(8), mandamus would only lie to compel a ruling, not to compel the judge to make a finding that Carter should get the records. Mandamus may not control judicial discretion. The remedy for an unfavorable finding would be appeal, not mandamus. State v. Dowell, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 102408, 2015-Ohio-3237.

         {¶ 7} To the extent that Carter is seeking records directly from the judge, his complaint is also ill-founded. The judge is not the custodian of those records and, thus, has no duty to disclose them. Furthermore, public record requests to a court are governed by the Rules of Superintendence, not R.C. 149.43, and this mandamus action is not premised on those provisions. State ex rel Harris v. Pureval, 155 Ohio St.3d 343, 2018-Ohio-4718, 121 N.E.3d 337.

         {¶ 8} Accordingly, this court, sua sponte, dismisses this application for a writ of mandamus. Relator to pay costs; costs waived. This court directs the clerk of courts to serve all parties notice of this judgment and its date of entry upon the journal as required by Civ.R. 58(B).

         {¶ 9} ...


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