City of Toledo v. State, No. 2017–0327

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

154 Ohio St.3d 41
110 N.E.3d 1257
2018 Ohio 2358

The CITY OF TOLEDO, Appellee,
v.
The STATE of Ohio et al., Appellants.

No. 2017–0327

Supreme Court of Ohio.

Submitted April 24, 2018
Decided June 20, 2018


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.

154 Ohio St.3d 41

{¶ 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)

154 Ohio St.3d 42

(the legislature has exclusive control

110 N.E.3d 1260

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).

154 Ohio St.3d 43

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.

110 N.E.3d 1261

{¶ 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:

154 Ohio St.3d 44
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...

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18 practice notes
  • City of Cleveland v. State, No. 2018-0097
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • September 24, 2019
    ...Ohio St.3d 334 Law and AnalysisStandard of Review{¶ 15} A statute cannot be enjoined unless it is unconstitutional. Toledo v. State, 154 Ohio St.3d 41, 2018-Ohio-2358, 110 N.E.3d 1257, ¶ 17. The power to enjoin a statute is "further ‘circumscribed by the rule[s] that laws are entitled to a ......
  • Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose, No. 20AP-432
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • October 2, 2020
    ...as a right but may be granted by a court if it is necessary to prevent a future wrong that the law cannot.’ " Toledo v. State , 154 Ohio St.3d 41, 2018-Ohio-2358, 110 N.E.3d 1257, ¶ 15, quoting Garono v. State , 37 Ohio St.3d 171, 173, 524 N.E.2d 496 (1988). The question of whether to grant......
  • State v. Parker, No. 2017-1575
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • October 9, 2019
    ...and "[t]his lawmaking prerogative cannot be delegated to or encroached upon by the other branches of government," Toledo v. State , 154 Ohio St.3d 41, 2018-Ohio-2358, 110 N.E.3d 1257, ¶ 26. And fundamental to maintaining the separation of powers is our recognition that "a court may not rewr......
  • Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose, No. 20AP-421
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 29, 2020
    ...and we have recognized that a court cannot employ equitable principles to circumvent valid legislative enactments[.]" Toledo v. State , 154 Ohio St.3d 41, 2018-Ohio-2358, 110 N.E.3d 1257, ¶ 16. {¶ 33} Whether the trial court erred in granting or denying an injunction is reviewed on appeal f......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • City of Cleveland v. State, No. 2018-0097
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • September 24, 2019
    ...Ohio St.3d 334 Law and AnalysisStandard of Review{¶ 15} A statute cannot be enjoined unless it is unconstitutional. Toledo v. State, 154 Ohio St.3d 41, 2018-Ohio-2358, 110 N.E.3d 1257, ¶ 17. The power to enjoin a statute is "further ‘circumscribed by the rule[s] that laws are entitled to a ......
  • Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose, No. 20AP-432
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • October 2, 2020
    ...as a right but may be granted by a court if it is necessary to prevent a future wrong that the law cannot.’ " Toledo v. State , 154 Ohio St.3d 41, 2018-Ohio-2358, 110 N.E.3d 1257, ¶ 15, quoting Garono v. State , 37 Ohio St.3d 171, 173, 524 N.E.2d 496 (1988). The question of whether to grant......
  • State v. Parker, No. 2017-1575
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • October 9, 2019
    ...and "[t]his lawmaking prerogative cannot be delegated to or encroached upon by the other branches of government," Toledo v. State , 154 Ohio St.3d 41, 2018-Ohio-2358, 110 N.E.3d 1257, ¶ 26. And fundamental to maintaining the separation of powers is our recognition that "a court may not rewr......
  • Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose, No. 20AP-421
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • September 29, 2020
    ...and we have recognized that a court cannot employ equitable principles to circumvent valid legislative enactments[.]" Toledo v. State , 154 Ohio St.3d 41, 2018-Ohio-2358, 110 N.E.3d 1257, ¶ 16. {¶ 33} Whether the trial court erred in granting or denying an injunction is reviewed on appeal f......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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