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Lingle v. State

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 18, 2019

Harmon Lingle, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
State of Ohio, et al., Defendants-Appellant. Mark Grosser, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
State of Ohio, et al., Defendants-Appellants.

          APPEALS from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. Nos. 16CV-2104, 16CV-2492

         On brief:

          Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender, and Katherine A. Szudy, for appellees.

          [Dave Yost], Attorney General, and Zachary Huffman for appellant State of Ohio, Attorney General, [Dave Yost].

          DECISION

          BRUNNER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, the State of Ohio ("State"), through its Attorney General, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas granting, in part, the Civ.R. 12(C) motions for judgment on the pleadings of plaintiffs-appellees, Harmon Lingle and Mark Grosser (collectively "appellees"). The State presents the following, sole assignment of error for our review:

The Common Pleas Court erroneously granted Appellees' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings where it found that Appellees were "entitled to a hearing whereat they must prove by clear and convincing evidence that they are not likely to commit a sexually-oriented offense in the future." [ ] The applicable section of the Ohio Revised Code does not grant a Court jurisdiction to hold such a hearing, make such determination, or to alter a sexual predator's registration requirements if it is found that the offender is not likely to recidivate.

         {¶ 2} For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶ 3} On February 26 and March 10, 2016, respectively, appellees filed separate complaints against the State and the Sheriff of Franklin County. Through their complaints, appellees sought declaratory judgments from the court regarding their rights, status, and other legal relations under former R.C. 2950.09 and State v. Williams, 129 Ohio St.3d 344, 2011-Ohio-3374. Appellees were both classified as sexual predators in this State after they moved to Ohio from Florida.

         {¶ 4} Lingle was indicted on May 18, 1990 for committing a lewd and lascivious act, in violation of Fla.Stat. 800.04. Lingle pled guilty to the charge, and ultimately served a prison sentence after violating his probation. On Lingle's release from prison in 1998, Lingle began registering as a sexual offender in Florida. Lingle moved to Ohio in 2008, and was originally classified as a sexually-oriented offender. In January 2012, the Ohio Attorney General informed Lingle that his classification had been changed to that of sexual predator.

         {¶ 5} Grosser was indicted on June 29, 2007 for two counts of solicitation of a child over the internet, in violation of Fla.Stat. 847.0135(3), and one count of transmission of material harmful to minors, in violation of Fla.Stat. 847.0138(2). Grosser pled no contest to the charges. The Florida court found Grosser guilty, sentenced him to six months in jail, and classified him as a sexual offender. Grosser moved to Ohio in 2008, and was originally classified as a Tier I offender. In February 2012, the Ohio Attorney General informed Grosser that his classification had been changed to sexual predator.

         {¶ 6} As their respective crimes both occurred before the January 1, 2008 effective date of 2007 Am.Sub.S.B. No. 10, appellees alleged that they were bound to comply with the provisions of R.C. Chapter 2950 which were in place before that date. Appellees asserted that, under R.C. 2950.09(F), they could petition the court to request removal of their Ohio sexual predator classification. Appellees admitted that their Florida convictions were substantially equivalent to offenses listed in former R.C. 2950.01(D)(1)(a), (b), (c), or (d). See Lingle Compl. at ¶ 23; Grosser Compl. at ¶ 26. Appellees alleged that their Florida convictions did not obligate them to register for life in Florida.

         {¶ 7} Appellees attached Fla.Stat. 775.21, identifying the registration requirements for Florida sexual predators, and Fla.Stat. 943.0435, identifying the registration requirements for Florida sexual offenders, to their complaints. Appellees noted that, while both statutes appeared to obligate those subject to the statutes to register for life, sexual offenders, unlike sexual predators, could petition the court to request removal "from the registry in accordance with the statute's mandates." (Grosser Compl. at ¶ 30; Lingle Compl. at ¶ 27.)

         {¶ 8} Appellees sought an order from the court declaring that the State and the Sheriff had incorrectly classified them as sexual predators, and further declaring that they should have been classified as sexually-oriented offenders. Alternatively, appellees both sought orders declaring that they were entitled to a hearing to present evidence demonstrating that, under Ohio law, they would have been adjudicated sexually-oriented offenders, not sexual predators.

         {¶ 9} On June 1 and June 22, 2016, respectively, appellees filed separate Civ.R. 12(C) motions for judgment on the pleadings. The State and the Sheriff filed memoranda contra the appellees' motions. On October 26, ...


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