The State ex rel. Dunn et al.
Plain Local School District Board of Education.
Submitted January 7, 2020
Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A.,
Scott M. Zurakowski, Owen J. Rarric, Joseph J. Pasquarella,
and Amanda M. Connelly, for relators.
& Berne, L.L.P., Amanda Martinsek, William D. Edwards,
Daniela Paez, Trevor J. Hardy, Rex A. Littrell, and Rachael
Rodman, for respondent.
1} In this expedited election case, relators, nine
residents of the village of Hills and Dales,  seek a writ of
mandamus to compel respondent, the Plain Local School
District Board of Education ("the Plain Local school
board"), to forward to the Stark County Board of
Elections a petition proposing the transfer of some of Plain
Local School District's territory to Jackson Local School
District. We grant the writ.
2} R.C. 3311.242 allows certain qualified electors
to propose the transfer of the territory in which they reside
from one school district to another. As we explained in
State ex rel. Hills & Dales v. Plain Local School
Dist. Bd. of Edn., ___ Ohio St.3d ___,
2019-Ohio-5160, ___ N.E.3d ___, ¶ 3, R.C. 3311.242
establishes a multistep process for the placement of a
transfer proposal on an election ballot. First, at least 10
percent of the qualified electors who voted in the last
general election must submit a petition to their current
school board. R.C. 3311.242(C). The school board then must
cause the board of elections to check the sufficiency of the
signatures on the petition. Id. If the board of
elections verifies the signatures and certifies the petition
back to the school board, the school board must (1) file the
proposal and a map of the territory to be transferred with
the State Board of Education and (2) certify the proposal to
the board of elections for placement on the ballot at the
next election occurring not less than 90 days after the date
of the school board's certification. R.C. 3311.242(B),
3} On October 29, 2019, a petition was delivered to
the Plain Local school board proposing the transfer of the
village's territory from Plain Local School District to
Jackson Local School District beginning in the 2020-2021
school year. The petition sought to have the proposal placed
on the March 17, 2020 primary-election ballot. Under R.C.
3311.242(B)(2), the Plain Local school board was required to
certify the proposal to the board of elections by December
18, 2019, in order for the proposal to be placed on the March
17, 2020 ballot.
4} At a meeting on November 20, 2019, the Plain
Local school board adopted a resolution tabling the petition.
The resolution explained that the Plain Local school board
had filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the
constitutionality of R.C. 3311.242. In its resolution, the
Plain Local school board stated that it will not act on the
petition until there is a final determination of its claims
in federal court.
5} On December 3, the village filed an original
action in this court seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the
Plain Local school board to perform its duties under R.C.
3311.242. We held that the village lacked standing and
dismissed the complaint. On December 16, relators filed this
original action seeking the same mandamus relief against the
Plain Local school board. We granted relators' motion for
an expedited case schedule, and the case is now fully
6} The Plain Local school board argues that
relators' claim is barred under the doctrine of laches.
We have applied laches in elections cases, which require
relators to exhibit "[e]xtreme diligence and
promptness." State ex rel. Ryant Commt. v. Lorain
Cty. Bd. of Elections, 86 Ohio St.3d 107, 113, 712
N.E.2d 696 (1999). "The elements of laches are (1)
unreasonable delay or lapse of time in asserting a right, (2)
absence of an excuse for the delay, (3) knowledge, actual or
constructive, of the injury or wrong, and (4) prejudice to
the other party." State ex rel. Polo v. Cuyahoga
Cty. Bd. of Elections, 74 Ohio St.3d 143, 145, 656
N.E.2d 1277 (1995).
7} We need not decide whether relators unreasonably
delayed in filing this action because the Plain Local school
board has not established the fourth element of
laches-prejudice to the opposing party. The Plain Local
school board argues that it has been prejudiced because
relators' delay caused this case to be expedited, but
even if relators had filed this action on November 21-the day
after the Plain Local school board's resolution-it still
would have been necessary to expedite this matter so that it
could be ...