City of Toledo v. State

Decision Date20 June 2018
Docket NumberNo. 2017–0327,2017–0327
Citation110 N.E.3d 1257,154 Ohio St.3d 41,2018 Ohio 2358
Parties The CITY OF TOLEDO, Appellee, v. The STATE of Ohio et al., Appellants.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Dale R. Emch, Toledo Law Director, and Adam W. Loukx and Joseph V. McNamara, Assistant Law Directors, for appellee.

Michael DeWine, Attorney General, Eric E. Murphy, State Solicitor, Michael J. Hendershot, Chief Deputy Solicitor, Stephen P. Carney, Deputy Solicitor, and Halli Brownfield Watson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellants.

Kennedy, J.{¶ 1} In this case, the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas found appellants, the state of Ohio and the attorney general (collectively, "the state"), to be in contempt of a court order that permanently enjoined them from enforcing several statutes that the court had previously declared unconstitutional. The contempt finding was based on the General Assembly's enactment of new statutes that reduced funding to cities that were not acting in compliance with the statutes that had previously been declared unconstitutional. As penalty for the contempt, the court enjoined the state from enforcing the new laws. The Sixth District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. This discretionary appeal from the Sixth District's judgment presents the question whether the trial court had authority to enjoin the state from enforcing the new statutes as punishment for contempt of court.

{¶ 2} The General Assembly is vested with the legislative power of this state, and it may enact any law that is not in conflict with the Ohio and United States Constitutions. Stetter v. R.J. Corman Derailment Servs., L.L.C., 125 Ohio St.3d 280, 2010-Ohio-1029, 927 N.E.2d 1092, ¶ 36. For this reason, no court may permanently enjoin the enforcement of a statute without first finding it unconstitutional. Further, a court order cannot be enforced in contempt unless the order was "clear and definite, unambiguous, and not subject to dual interpretations." State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hunter , 138 Ohio St.3d 51, 2013-Ohio-5614, 3 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 25. And if a court were to clearly, definitely, and unambiguously order the legislature not to enact specific legislation, that order could not be enforced, because the separation-of-powers doctrine precludes courts from enjoining the General Assembly from exercising its legislative power to enact laws. See State ex rel. Grendell v. Davidson , 86 Ohio St.3d 629, 633, 716 N.E.2d 704 (1999)(the legislature has exclusive control over duties that are purely legislative in character).

{¶ 3} Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals, vacate the contempt order, and dissolve the injunction against enforcing the spending provisions enacted by 2015 Am.Sub.H.B. No. 64 ("H.B. 64").

Facts and Procedural History

S.B. 342

{¶ 4} Since 1999, the city of Toledo has used traffic cameras to civilly enforce traffic laws, specifically speed and traffic-signal laws. See generally Toledo Municipal Code 313.12.

{¶ 5} In 2014, the General Assembly enacted 2014 Am.Sub.S.B. No. 342 ("S.B. 342"), effective March 23, 2015, to regulate the use of traffic cameras by local governments. The act provides, among other things, that a law-enforcement officer must be present whenever a camera is in operation, R.C. 4511.093(B)(1), that speeding tickets may be issued only if the driver exceeded the speed limit by specified amounts, R.C. 4511.0912, and that cities must conduct safety studies and give public notice before placing a new camera at a particular location, R.C. 4511.095. See generally Dayton v. State , 151 Ohio St.3d 168, 2017-Ohio-6909, 87 N.E.3d 176, ¶ 4–9 (lead opinion).

{¶ 6} The city sued the state and the attorney general seeking injunctive relief and a declaration that S.B. 342 violates the Home Rule Amendment, Article XVIII, Section 3, of the Ohio Constitution. On April 27, 2015, the trial court declared portions of S.B. 342 unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the state "from enforcing Ohio Revised Code Sections 4511.093(B)(1) and (3), 4511.095, 4511.096, 4511.097, 4511.098, 4511.099, 4511.0911(A) and (B), and 4511.0912."

{¶ 7} The court of appeals affirmed. Toledo v. State , 2016-Ohio-4906, 56 N.E.3d 997 (6th Dist.). We accepted the state's appeal and stayed the briefing schedule. Toledo v. State , 147 Ohio St.3d 1411, 2016-Ohio-7455, 62 N.E.3d 184. We later vacated the court of appeals' judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court for application of Dayton v. State , 151 Ohio St.3d 168, 2017-Ohio-6909, 87 N.E.3d 176. Toledo v. State , 152 Ohio St.3d 496, 2017-Ohio-8955, 98 N.E.3d 222. A majority of this court in Dayton held that R.C. 4511.093(B)(1) (the officer-present provision), 4511.0912 (the speeding-leeway provision), and 4511.095 (the study and notice provisions) are unconstitutional. Dayton at ¶ 1 (lead opinion); id. at ¶ 36 (French, J., concurring in judgment only).

H.B. 64

{¶ 8} While the state's appeal was pending in the court of appeals, the General Assembly enacted R.C. 4511.0915 and 5747.502 and amended R.C. 5747.50(C)(5), all of which were effective September 29, 2015, as part of H.B. 64, the biennial budget bill. R.C. 4511.0915 requires each municipality operating traffic-law-enforcement cameras to provide either a statement that the municipality is in compliance with the S.B. 342 regulations or, if not in compliance, a report detailing the amount of civil fines billed as a result of the cameras. R.C. 5747.50(C)(5) and 5747.502 direct the tax commissioner (1) to cease providing for payments from the local-government fund to municipalities that fail to file the statement or report and (2) to reduce local-government-fund payments to municipalities that are not in compliance with S.B. 342 "in an amount equal to one-third of the gross amount of fines" imposed using traffic cameras.

{¶ 9} In response to this new legislation, Toledo moved the trial court for an order to enforce the April 2015 permanent injunction and to enjoin enforcement of the new spending provisions. On October 7, 2015, the trial court found that H.B. 64 had the effect of nullifying the April 2015 permanent injunction by withholding local-government funding from the city unless it complied with the statutory provisions in S.B. 342 that the court had declared unconstitutional. The court held the state in contempt for violating the permanent injunction and enjoined enforcement of the spending provisions as punishment for that contempt.

{¶ 10} The Sixth District Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court had not abused its discretion "in finding that the budget bill provisions violated its April 27, 2015 order and that action to enforce those provisions constitutes contempt of court." 2017-Ohio-215, 72 N.E.3d 692, ¶ 26. According to the court of appeals, "[t]his act of the General Assembly essentially amounts to an end-run around the trial court's injunction in an effort to enforce S.B. 342, which, if permitted, would unconstitutionally deprive the court of its inherent power to enforce its injunction." Id. at ¶ 25. The appellate court concluded that the city had not needed to file a new complaint to challenge the constitutionality of the spending provisions, because the trial court had exercised its continuing jurisdiction to enforce the permanent injunction through its powers of contempt and did not need to review the statutes' constitutionality. Id. at ¶ 12, 14. It also decided that "a trial court does not implicate separation of powers issues by preventing the enforcement of the newly enacted provisions because the court is not acting as an arbiter of public policy, but is instead policing the parties' compliance with its prior court order." Id. at ¶ 17.

{¶ 11} The state appealed to this court, presenting two propositions of law:

A trial court has no jurisdiction to issue a post-judgment order finding the State in contempt and enjoining a new law, such as the Set–Off Law here, when the new law was not challenged in the complaint and not named in the trial court's original order.
The General Assembly's discretionary spending power can be limited only by an express constitutional limit on the spending itself, not by objections to goals indirectly achieved by the spending. In particular, a court cannot affirmatively order spending without a constitutional mandate for such spending, and doing otherwise violates separation-of-powers principles.

Positions of the Parties

{¶ 12} On appeal to this court, the state contends that the contempt order was inappropriate because the April 2015 permanent injunction does not directly prohibit new legislation and H.B. 64 was a spending provision that does not enforce the traffic-camera regulations invalidated by the trial court but rather incentivizes compliance with them. The state maintains that the trial court did not have authority to grant the injunction, because the case had proceeded to final judgment and therefore the city had to file a new complaint in order to challenge the constitutionality of H.B. 64. It also argues that a statute cannot be enjoined unless the court first finds that it is unconstitutional, and it contends that it is a violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine for the judiciary to enjoin the legislature from passing laws. Lastly, the state maintains that H.B. 64 cannot be enjoined, because it is a constitutional exercise of the General Assembly's spending power.

{¶ 13} The city responds that the General Assembly was bound by the injunction and violated the prohibition against enforcing the traffic-camera regulations by imposing an economic penalty on the municipalities that fail to comply with them. It contends that the city was not required to file a separate action to specifically challenge the constitutionality of H.B. 64, because the trial court had continuing jurisdiction to enforce the injunction and the new enactment incorporated statutes that the court had declared unconstitutional. According to...

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