The State ex rel. Parisi, Appellant,
Dayton Bar Association Certified Grievance Committee et al., Appellees.
Submitted January 29, 2019
from the Court of Appeals for Montgomery County, No. 27123,
Georgianna Parisi, pro se.
Freund, Freeze & Arnold, L.P.A., Stephen V. Freeze, and
Lisa A. Hesse, for appellees.
1} Appellant, Georgianna Parisi, appeals the
judgment of the Second District Court of Appeals denying her
petition for a writ of mandamus against appellees, the Dayton
Bar Association and the Dayton Bar Association Certified
Grievance Committee. Because Parisi did not utilize the
correct vehicle, Sup.R. 44 through 47, to seek to obtain the
requested records, we affirm the judgment of the court of
2} In 2016, Parisi sent a letter to the executive
director of the Dayton Bar Association requesting "any
and all records" concerning her in the bar
association's possession, pursuant to R.C. 149.43,
Ohio's Public Records Act. She specifically requested:
1. [a]ny and all communications related to and/or concerning
me, including communications by letter, phone, email, text,
voice mail, and the like; and
2. [a]ny and all documents related to and/or concerning me.
records sought related to her two attorney-discipline cases,
Dayton Bar Assn. v. Parisi, case No. 2009-0064
("Parisi I "), and Dayton Bar Assn. v.
Parisi, case No. 2012-0060 ("Parisi II
"), both of which had long been resolved.
See Dayton Bar Assn. v. Parisi, 131 Ohio St.3d 345,
2012-Ohio-879, 965 N.E.2d 268, ¶ 2; Parisi v.
Heck, S.D.Ohio No. 3:14-cv-346, 2015 WL 3999300, *4
(July 1, 2015).
3} In a letter dated April 8, 2016, the grievance
committee provided an initial response to Parisi's
request. The grievance committee's letter expressed that
it did not believe that the documents Parisi sought were
subject to disclosure.
4} Parisi then amended her request to include
any and all emails, text messages, and any and all electronic
messages, whether made on [the bar association's] or an
individual's electronic equipment. I am requesting all
records concerning me, and have expanded it to all records
which the [bar association] has concerning me, including
records associated with Parisi I and Parisi
letter dated April 22, 2016, the grievance committee formally
denied Parisi's request.
5} Parisi filed a petition seeking a writ of
mandamus against the bar association and the grievance
committee in the Second District Court of Appeals. The bar
association and the grievance committee filed a motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim, which the court of
appeals converted into a motion for summary judgment. Parisi
then filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.
6} The court of appeals recognized that, as an
initial matter, it was required to determine whether Parisi
had utilized the correct vehicle to seek to obtain the
requested attorney-discipline records. However, because the
parties had not briefed that issue, the court proceeded to
decide the merits of Parisi's petition under R.C. 149.43.
The court of appeals granted summary judgment in favor of the
bar association and the grievance committee, denied
Parisi's cross-motion, and denied the writ of mandamus.
7} Parisi appealed to this court. She also filed a
"motion to elect representation." We find her
motion to be without merit. Furthermore, we conclude that
because Parisi failed to seek to obtain the
attorney-discipline records pursuant to Sup.R. 44 through 47,
the court of appeals correctly granted summary judgment in
favor of the bar association and the grievance committee and
correctly denied the requested writ of mandamus.
Motion to elect representation
8} Parisi has filed a motion captioned "Motion
to Elect Representation" requesting that this court
order opposing counsel, Lisa Ann Hesse, Stephen Freeze, and
the law firm of Freund, Freeze & Arnold (collectively,
"Freund Freeze"), "to make a determination as
to whether they will represent" the bar association and
the grievance committee or the bar association's
counsel John Ruffolo, former president Brian Wildermuth, and
former Board of Trustees member Jonathon Beck, individuals
who are not and have never been parties to this action.
9} Parisi is essentially seeking to disqualify
opposing counsel. She alleges that Freund Freeze's
representation of the bar association and the grievance
committee is directly adverse to its prior clients, Ruffalo,
Wildermuth, and Beck. Parisi posits the existence of an
unwaivable conflict, in violation of Prof.Cond.R. 1.7
(prohibiting a lawyer from accepting or continuing a
client's representation if that representation will be
directly adverse to another client), because those
individuals "may oppose [Parisi's] public records
request, not on legal grounds, but because they personally
wish to shield themselves from additional unethical behavior
being revealed." We find Parisi's motion to be
10} Freund Freeze represents only the bar
association and the grievance committee, the only other
parties to this action besides Parisi. Because the other
individuals that Parisi mentions are not parties to this
action, there is no basis for Freund Freeze to "elect
representation" in this case.
11} Further, Parisi is not a client of Freund
Freeze, and she has not identified any obligations or
responsibilities that could serve as a basis for opposing
counsel's disqualification. Therefore, Parisi lacks
standing to assert that Freund Freeze has a conflict of
interest. See Morgan v. N. Coast Cable Co., 63 Ohio
St.3d 156, 586 N.E.2d 88 (1992), syllabus ("a stranger
to an attorney-client relationship lacks standing to complain
of a conflict of interest in that relationship").
12} Therefore, we deny Parisi's "motion to
elect representation." B. Writ of mandamus to obtain
records relating to attorney-discipline cases
13} Parisi petitioned for a writ of mandamus to
compel the bar association and the grievance committee to
provide her with documents relating to her two
attorney-discipline cases under only the Public
Records Act, R.C. 149.43. The court of appeals addressed the
merits of Parisi's petition under R.C. 149.43.
14} However, as this court has stated in numerous
cases since the promulgation of Sup.R. 44 through 47, a court
must first address the threshold issue whether the petitioner
has sought the requested documents through the correct
vehicle, either R.C. 149.43 or Sup.R. 44 through 47.
The vehicle used dictates not only the documents that are
available to the relator and the manner in which they are
available but also the remedies available to the relator
should the relator be successful.
15} Thus, before we may address the merits of the
appeal, we must answer this threshold question of which is
the proper vehicle to use in seeking to obtain documents
related to attorney-discipline cases.
Promulgation of Sup.R. 44 through 47
16} Prior to the promulgation of Sup.R. 44 through
47 in 2009, this court followed the Public Records Act in
resolving public-records requests for court records. See,
e.g., State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Winkler, 101
Ohio St.3d 382, 2004-Ohio-1581, 805 N.E.2d 1094. This court,
however, recognized the need to promulgate its own rules to
govern the release of public records held by the judiciary.
Former Chief Justice Moyer acknowledged in a letter to Ohio
attorneys that "[w]hile the courts in Ohio [had] always
acted in accordance with the Public Records Act, the act does
not govern the courts." Moyer, A message from the
Chief Justice: Openness is foundation of Ohio
Government, 81 Ohio State Bar Assn. Report 170, 171
(2008). Chief Justice Moyer believed-and rightfully so-that
the "important constitutional principle of separation of
powers" required this court to regulate judicial records
through its Rules of Superintendence. Id.; see State v.
Steffen,70 Ohio St.3d 399, 409, 639 N.E.2d 67 ...