Submitted August 6, 2019
from the Court of Appeals for Richland County, No. 17 CA 37,
Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender, and Charlyn Bohland and
Timothy B. Hackett, Assistant Public Defenders, for
Yost, Attorney General, and Jerri L. Fosnaught, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
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'
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 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
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."
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."
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Juvenile and criminal proceedings
7} In 2012, the state filed four delinquency
complaints 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.
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