In re I.J.

Docket NumberC-220553
Decision Date21 June 2023
Citation2023 Ohio 2024
PartiesIN RE: I.J.
CourtOhio Court of Appeals

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2023-Ohio-2024

IN RE: I.J.

No. C-220553

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

June 21, 2023


Appeal From: Hamilton County Juvenile Court TRIAL NO. 10-9269Z

Melissa A. Powers, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Keith Sauter, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Plaintiff-Appellee,

Raymond T. Faller, Hamilton County Public Defender, and Jessica R. Moss, Assistant Public Defender, for Defendant-Appellant.

OPINION.

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BERGERON, PRESIDING JUDGE.

{¶1} In 2021, defendant-appellant I.J. sought to seal and expunge 46 cases from his juvenile record. Ultimately, the juvenile court sealed and expunged 45 of the 46 cases. I.J. presently appeals the denial of his application for the remaining case, arguing that the juvenile court abused its discretion. We agree, reverse the juvenile court's judgment, and remand this cause with instructions for the juvenile court to seal and expunge the record of the remaining case.

I.

{¶2} In December 2021, 28-year-old I.J. filed applications to seal and expunge his juvenile record, which contained 46 cases. The following month, a magistrate denied I.J.'s applications without a hearing, based on "the interests of society or in the interests of justice." At this point, the procedural history becomes somewhat messy.

{¶3} One juvenile court judge handled the cases ending in "X" (the "X cases") and a second judge addressed the remaining cases-those ending in "Z" (the "Z cases"). The first judge rejected the magistrate's decision and granted sealing and expungement of the record of the X cases after finding that I.J. had been rehabilitated. With respect to the Z cases, I.J. filed an objection to the magistrate's decision in February 2022. In July 2022, the juvenile court granted I.J.'s objection in part and ordered the magistrate to conduct a hearing on the Z cases to determine whether I.J. had been sufficiently rehabilitated. The matter was then returned to the magistrate for the hearing.

{¶4} Later in July, at the hearing, the magistrate indicated that I.J. owed outstanding restitution in the case numbered 10-9269Z, which reflected a charge for

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what would be breaking and entering if committed by an adult. Although I.J. did not appear for the hearing, counsel informed the magistrate that I.J. had stayed out of trouble and had not been convicted of a felony since 2015. Counsel also explained that the first judge had sealed and expunged the records of the X cases after finding I.J. rehabilitated. In arguing against sealing and expungement, the state raised I.J.'s adult record, including a 2018 misdemeanor drug charge and various traffic offenses.

{¶5} Following the hearing, the magistrate granted sealing and expungement in all I.J.'s remaining cases except for the case numbered 10-9269Z, the case in which he failed to pay restitution. In sum, 45 of I.J.'s 46 juvenile cases were sealed and expunged from his record upon sufficient findings of his rehabilitation.

{¶6} In August 2022, I.J. filed an objection to the magistrate's decision regarding the case numbered 10-9269Z, and he supplemented the objection in September. In October, following a hearing on the matter, the juvenile court denied I.J.'s objection. The court noted that the magistrate erred in basing her denial of I.J.'s application on the "interests of society or in the interests of justice," but from its own independent review of the record, the court determined that the magistrate reached the appropriate legal conclusion. The court reviewed various factors, including continued criminal behavior, failure to pay restitution, and lack of affirmative evidence of rehabilitation due to I.J.'s failure to appear in court, in concluding that the magistrate had properly denied I.J.'s request for sealing and expungement of his record in the case numbered 10-9269Z. I.J. now appeals this decision.

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II.

{¶7} In his sole assignment of error, I.J. maintains that the juvenile court erred by refusing to seal and expunge his juvenile record in the case numbered 10-9269Z. He insists that the court abused its discretion when it denied his request because he had demonstrated sufficient rehabilitation, and that the court's decision was contrary to the purposes and principles of the juvenile justice system. I.J. also argues that the court erred in considering his failure to pay restitution in this case as a factor indicating a lack of rehabilitation.

{¶8} "The sealing of a record of a criminal conviction is a privilege, not a right." State v. D.K., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 106539, 2018-Ohio-2522, ¶ 13. But sealing and expungement provisions are remedial in nature and are to be liberally construed. See State v. A.S., 2022-Ohio-3833, 199 N.E.3d 994, ¶ 7 (1st Dist.); D.K. at ¶ 13, quoting State v. M.D., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 92534, 2009-Ohio-5694, ¶ 9. Moreover, statutory provisions" 'regarding the sealing of juvenile delinquency records promote [the] goals of rehabilitation and...

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