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Smith v. May

Supreme Court of Ohio

January 14, 2020

Smith, Appellant,
May, [1] Warden, Appellee.

          Submitted August 6, 2019

          Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Richland County, No. 17 CA 37, 2018-Ohio-300.

          Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender, and Charlyn Bohland and Timothy B. Hackett, Assistant Public Defenders, for appellant.

          Dave Yost, Attorney General, and Jerri L. Fosnaught, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          PER CURIAM.

         {¶ 1} In 2012, four delinquency complaints were filed in juvenile court against appellant, Ja'Relle Smith, who was then 16 years old. Based on his age and the severity of the charges, the cases were transferred to adult court, where Smith was convicted of five felony counts and sentenced to an aggregate prison term of 16 years. In 2017, he filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Fifth District Court of Appeals alleging that the juvenile court had not fully complied with the procedures for transferring jurisdiction to the adult court, because it had not timely notified his father of a hearing in one of the juvenile-court cases that led to the transfer of some of the charges. The court denied the writ, and Smith appeals here as of right.

         {¶ 2} We appointed counsel for Smith and ordered supplemental briefing regarding whether the juvenile court's noncompliant notice was a defect that deprived the adult court of subject-matter jurisdiction. We hold that the failure to provide timely notice did not prevent the juvenile court from transferring subject-matter jurisdiction to the adult court. We therefore affirm the court of appeals' judgment.


         {¶ 3} Under R.C. 2151.23(A)(1), "[t]he juvenile court has exclusive original jurisdiction * * * [concerning any child who on or about the date specified in the complaint, indictment, or information is alleged * * * to be * * * a delinquent * * * child." But if a child[2] is old enough and is alleged to have committed an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, the juvenile court may (or may be required to) transfer its jurisdiction to the appropriate adult court for criminal prosecution. See R.C. 2152.10(A) (eligibility for mandatory transfer) and 2152.10(B) (eligibility for discretionary transfer). This transfer occurs through a statutory process that "is generally referred to as a bindover procedure." State v. Wilson, 73 Ohio St.3d 40, 43, 652 N.E.2d 196 (1995).

         {¶ 4} The procedural requirements for bindover are provided in R.C. 2152.12. In general terms, if a child appears to be eligible for mandatory transfer, the juvenile court must conduct a hearing to determine whether he meets the eligibility criteria and whether there is probable cause to believe that he committed the act charged. See R.C. 2152.12(A)(1); see also Juv. R. 30(A). When a child appears to be eligible for discretionary transfer, the juvenile court, in addition to determining eligibility and probable cause, must determine whether the child is "amenable to care or rehabilitation within the juvenile system" and whether "the safety of the community * * * require[s] that the child be subject to adult sanctions." R.C. 2152.12(B)(3).

         {¶ 5} Unless the alleged juvenile offender is taken into custody or apprehended after age 21, he "shall [not] be prosecuted as an adult" for the offense "unless [he] has been transferred as provided in" R.C. 2152.12(A) or (B). R.C. 2152.12(H). Such a transfer "abates the jurisdiction of the juvenile court with respect to the delinquent acts alleged in the complaint, and, upon the transfer, * * * the case then shall be within the jurisdiction of the court to which it is transferred." R.C. 2152.12(I).

         {¶ 6} This appeal involves the bindover statute's notice provision, RC. 2152.12(G), which provides that a juvenile court "shall give notice in writing of the time, place, and purpose of any hearing held pursuant to division (A) or (B) of this section to the child's parents, guardian, or other custodian and to the child's counsel at least three days prior to the hearing."


         A. Juvenile and criminal proceedings

         {¶ 7} In 2012, the state filed four delinquency complaints[3] against Smith in Summit County Juvenile Court related to three different robberies. Because each of the charged offenses was a "category two offense" involving a firearm and Smith was 16 years old at the time, he appeared to be eligible for mandatory transfer to adult court under R.C. 2152.10(A)(2). See also R.C. 2152.02(BB) (defining "category two offense").

         {¶ 8} The juvenile court held a hearing on three of the delinquency complaints on March 22, 2012. Smith's father was present at that hearing. At the hearing, Smith waived his right to a probable-cause hearing and stipulated to findings of probable cause in each case. The juvenile court found that Smith's cases were subject to mandatory transfer and transferred the cases to the general division of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas.

         {¶ 9} The juvenile court held a hearing on the fourth delinquency complaint on March 27, 2012. Although R.C. 2152.12(G) required the court to give written notice of the hearing to Smith's father at least three days in advance, the court sent him notice only one day in advance, and Smith's father did not attend the hearing. When the juvenile court inquired about his father's absence, Smith indicated that he was aware of his right to have his father present after discussing that right with his attorney and he agreed to proceed without him. Then Smith waived his right to a probable-cause hearing and stipulated to a finding of probable cause. The juvenile court then transferred the fourth case to the adult court.

         {¶ 10} In April 2012, a grand jury indicted Smith on five counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of aggravated burglary, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of burglary. Each count included a firearm specification. Smith later pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated robbery (one with a firearm specification), one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of kidnapping. The court dismissed the remaining counts and specifications and imposed an aggregate prison sentence of 16 years.

         {¶ 11} The Ninth District Court of Appeals affirmed Smith's convictions and sentences. State v. Smith, 9th Dist. Summit No. 26804, 2015-Ohio-579.

         B. Habeas proceedings

         {¶ 12} In 2017, Smith filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Fifth District Court of Appeals against David Marquis, then the warden of Richland Correctional Institution. Smith primarily argued that the common pleas court lacked jurisdiction to convict him because the juvenile court had not provided timely notice of the March 27, 2012 hearing to his father as required under R.C. 2152.12(G). The court of appeals denied the petition. 2018-Ohio-300, 11. The court concluded that R.C. 2152.12(G) did not apply to the March 27 hearing because, in its view, it was a pretrial hearing, not a bindover hearing. Id. at ¶ 9. It also determined that Smith had an adequate remedy at law because he could have challenged the bindover in his direct appeal of the common pleas court's judgment. Id. at ¶ 10.

         {¶ 13} After Smith appealed to this court, we appointed counsel for him and ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs on this question: "Does the procedural error in the juvenile-bindover proceeding create a jurisdictional defect that deprived the general division of the common pleas court of ...

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