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J.P. v. M.H.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Lorain

January 6, 2020

J.P. Appellant
v.
M.H. Appellee

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 15CV187984

          J.P., pro se, Appellant.

          GERALD WALTON, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JULIE A. SCHAFER JUDGE.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-Appellant, J.P., appeals from the judgment of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas entering judgment upon a jury verdict in favor of Defendant-Appellee, M.H.

         I.

         {¶2} J.P. filed a complaint against M.H. on November 13, 2015. In the complaint, he asserted four causes of action: invasion of privacy, defamation, abuse of process, and civil conspiracy. Following a stay pending the appeal of other cases the trial court deemed related to the parties and issues involved in this case, the matter proceeded through the pretrial process.

         {¶3} A jury trial commenced on October 15, 2018. At the close of J.P's case, the trial court granted M.H.'s motion for directed verdict on the claims for defamation and abuse of process. At the conclusion of the trial, the two remaining claims were submitted to the jury. Following deliberation, the jury returned its verdict finding in favor of M.H. on each of the claims. On October 22, 2018, the trial court entered judgment on the verdict.

         {¶4} The trial court denied J.P.'s motion for a new trial. J.P. then timely appealed the judgment. He presents four assignments of error for our review.

         II.

         Assignment of Error I

         The trial court erred and abused discretion to the prejudice of [J.P.] in entering judgment upon jury verdict against [J.P.], because Judge Inderlied erred and abused discretion to the prejudice of [J.P.] in being assigned to the case and in assuming personal jurisdiction over the case in the first place and in later overruling [J.P.]'s objection thereto.

         {¶5} In his first assignment of error, J.P. contends that the visiting judge assigned to hear this matter in the trial court "lacked personal jurisdiction over the case" because his assignment was an abuse of discretion, in that it contravened relevant rules for the assignment of visiting judges, and deprived J.P. of federal due process.

         {¶6} The transcript of the trial court docket contains and entry on May 5, 2017 stating:

THE HONORABLE HERMAN FREDERICK INDERLIED, JR., A RETIRED JUDGE OF THE GEAUGA COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS, GENERAL AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS DIVISIONS, IS ASSIGNED EFFECTIVE 4/24/17 TO PRESIDE IN THE LORAIN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS, GENERAL DIVISION, TO HEAR CASES 15CV185623, [J.P.] V. [T.H.]; 15CV186969, [M.H] V. [L.P.]; 15CV186968, [J.P.] V. [M.H.]; 15CV187984, [J.P.] V. [M.H.]; AND TO CONCLUDE ANY PROCEEDINGS IN WHICH HE PARTICIPATED. (S/C MAUREEN O'CONNOR, CHIEF JUSTICE)[.]

         The transcript reflects that a copy of the certificate of assignment was entered upon the docket. Although the document is missing from the record on appeal, J.P. acknowledges that certificate 17JA0943 assigned Judge Inderlied to hear the case.

         {¶7} J.P. filed an "objection to judicial assignment" on May 26, 2017. In the filing, J.P. objected to the assignment of Judge Inderlied, asserting that he lacked jurisdiction because his assignment to the case was "irregular[.]" The trial court issued an order overruling J.P.'s objection. In the order, Judge Inderlied stated that he was assigned to the matter pursuant to Ohio Constitution Art. IV, Section 6(C), that he consented to the assignment, and that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio issued certificate of assignment 17JA0943.

         {¶8} In his merit brief, J.P. argues that the assignment of Judge Inderlied failed to comport with Ohio's "specific rules and procedures for judicial assignment and re-assignment." Referencing the Guidelines for the Assignment of Judges issued by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, J.P. contends that the reason for the reassignment was not stated in a journal entry, nor was it apparent from the record of the case. J.P. also argues that the assignment "violated" Lorain County Court of Common Pleas Loc.R. 7 IV.

         {¶9} J.P. argues that the record does not reflect the recusal or disqualification of "[t]he last judge who lawfully assumed personal jurisdiction over the case[.]" Despite acknowledging that the docket contains a certificate from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio assigning Judge Inderlied to hear the case, J.P. contends that the "rules and provisions for judicial re-assignment were clearly and egregiously violated." According to J.P., the absence of a journal entry listing the justifiable reasons for the assignment of Judge Inderlied, together with the alleged failure to follow the rules to reassign a judge, give "the appearance if not the reality of case-fixing."

         {¶10} LocR. 7 IV outlines the procedure for reassigning a case as follows:

Any cases requiring reassignment shall be referred to the Administrative Judge along with reason for reassignment. When merited, the Administrative Judge will reassign the case. The Judge receiving the reassigned case may transfer a case ...

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