Logan v. Champaign Cnty. Bd. of Elections

Docket NumberC. A. 2023-CA-26
Decision Date22 December 2023
CourtOhio Court of Appeals



JODI L. LOGAN Appellant


C. A. No. 2023-CA-26

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Champaign

December 22, 2023

Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No. 2023 CV 026.

RICK L. BRUNNER & PATRICK M. QUINN, Attorneys for Appellant.

JEFFREY A. STANKUNAS & RYAN C. SPITZER, Attorneys for Appellees, Champaign County Board of Elections.



{¶ 1} Plaintiff-Appellant Jodi L. Logan appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Commons Pleas (FCCCP), which granted Defendant-Appellee Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's motion to dismiss, and from a judgment of the Champaign County Court of Common Pleas (CCCCP), which denied Logan's motion to


strike and granted the remaining Defendants-Appellees' motion to dismiss. For the reasons outlined below, we reverse and remand this matter to the CCCCP.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

{¶ 2} Logan formerly served as Deputy Director of the Champaign County Board of Elections ("the Board"). In May 2022, Logan was placed on administrative leave from her position as Deputy Director pending an investigation into allegations that she had failed to follow established protocol and had made false statements to the Board after she reported her concerns of possible violations of election procedures to the Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose ("Secretary LaRose"). In July 2022, Logan's employment was terminated, and this action subsequently arose out of Logan's employment termination.

{¶ 3} Following her termination, Logan brought a declaratory judgment action in the FCCCP against the Board, the director of the Board, the chairperson of the Board, and three members of the Board (collectively "the Champaign County Defendants"), and Secretary LaRose. In her complaint, Logan made several allegations concerning actions of the Champaign County Defendants that purportedly violated Secretary LaRose's election directives.

{¶ 4} Secretary LaRose had issued the election directives and advisories upon which the allegations against the Champaign County Defendants were based and was named in this action as the chief elections officer of the state. Because Secretary LaRose was a party to the complaint, Logan brought the action in Franklin County pursuant to Civ.R. 3(C)(4), which requires that an action brought against an officer in the officer's official capacity must be brought in the county where the officer maintains his principal



{¶ 5} In her complaint, Logan alleged that she had observed violations of election procedures during early voting for the May 2022 primary election. Specifically, Logan alleged that the Board's director failed to keep a record of persons who entered the Board's offices during early voting, met with candidates alone, and voiced support for a particular candidate in a contested primary. Logan also alleged that procedures pertaining to the security and tabulating of absentee ballots were not followed during the May 2022 primary. Logan reported her concerns to Secretary LaRose, which resulted in a letter issued to the Board informing them of Logan's allegations and ordering the Board to determine whether the alleged incidents took place. Logan claimed that the ethics policy from Secretary LaRose required her to report violations of election procedures and gave her a reasonable expectation of anonymity in reporting.

{¶ 6} Logan sought a declaratory judgment, reinstatement of her employment to her previous position, and back pay with benefits and attorney's fees. Logan alleged that she had been wrongfully terminated as the Board sought to cover up its wrongdoing and had been subjected to disparate and discriminatory employment standards. Logan also broadly asserted that Secretary LaRose had an interest in the outcome of the proceedings.

{¶ 7} Secretary LaRose filed a motion to dismiss Logan's complaint against him pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(1) and 12(B)(6). The Champaign County Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss Secretary LaRose pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(1), (2), (3) and (6) and to transfer the matter to the proper venue; specifically, they sought to initially transfer the


matter to Champaign County as the proper venue, but they reserved the right to later supplement their argument based upon the other defenses raised in their Civ.R. 12(B) motion. The Champaign County Defendants argued that venue was improper since it was solely based upon the joining of Secretary LaRose to the action only as an "interested party."

{¶ 8} The FCCCP granted Secretary LaRose's motion to dismiss, finding that Secretary LaRose was not a proper party to the action, and then stated that, based on its finding that Secretary LaRose was not a proper party, the Champaign County Defendants' motion to dismiss was rendered moot, in part, as to their arguments regarding Secretary LaRose. The FCCCP then granted the Champaign County Defendants' motion to change venue, reasoning that the only party who had given rise to Logan's seeking venue in Franklin County was Secretary LaRose and, because Secretary LaRose was not a proper party to the action, Franklin County was not the proper venue. The FCCCP further stated that there were no additional allegations or arguments to support Franklin County as venue, and it therefore ordered transfer of the matter to Champaign County where venue was proper under Civ.R. 3(C).

{¶ 9} Thereafter, in accordance with the FCCCP's order, the matter was transferred to the CCCCP; the complaint was received by the CCCCP on February 10, 2023, but was not reflected in the docket until February 13, 2023. On March 13, 2023, the Champaign County Defendants filed a Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which Logan later sought to strike as improper and untimely. The CCCCP ultimately denied Logan's motion to strike and granted the Champaign County


Defendants' motion to dismiss on the merits, thereby dismissing Logan's complaint as to the remaining Defendants. This appeal followed.

II. Assignments of Error

{¶ 10} Logan asserts the following two assignments of error:

The trial court in Champaign County erred in granting a second motion to dismiss by the Defendant-Appellee Board and its Defendant-Appellee members despite Civ.R. 12(G), and the motion being filed out of rule without compliance with Civ.R. 6(B) and overruling Appellant's Motion to Strike and Civ.R. 8(D) motion regarding the same. * * *
The trial court in Franklin County erred in granting motions to dismiss the Ohio Secretary of State and finding the Secretary of State not to be a necessary party for the purposes of ORC § 2721

{¶ 11} Given the procedural history of this case, we will address Logan's assignments of error out of order, focusing first on her second assignment of error concerning the decision of the FCCCP.

Second Assignment of Error

{¶ 12} At the outset, the Champaign County Defendants contend that we lack jurisdiction over Logan's second assignment of error, arguing that the decision and order originating from the FCCCP constituted a final appealable order and that Logan failed to timely appeal the decision in that district. We disagree.

{¶ 13} The jurisdiction of Ohio's courts of appeals is set forth in Section 3(B)(2), Article IV of the Ohio Constitution, which provides that "[c]ourts of appeals shall have * * *


jurisdiction * * * to review and affirm, modify, or reverse judgments or final orders of the courts of record inferior to the court of appeals * * *." (Emphasis added.) An order is a final order and may be reviewed, affirmed, modified, or reversed, with or without retrial when it is an order that, among others, affects a substantial right in an action that in effect determines the action and prevents a judgment and affects a substantial right made in a special proceeding or upon a summary application in an action after judgment. R.C. 2502.02(B)(1) and (2).

{¶ 14} R.C. 2505.02 is to be read in conjunction with Civ.R. 54(B), which provides: When more than one claim for relief is presented in an action whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, and whether arising out of the same or separate transactions, or when multiple parties are involved, the court may enter final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties only upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay. In the absence of a determination that there is no just reason for delay, any order or other form of decision, however designated, which adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties, shall not terminate the action as to any of the claims or parties, and the order or other form of decision is subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties. (Emphasis added). In other words, "Civ.R. 54(B) establishes that courts may enter final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all defendants in an action, only upon an


express determination that there is no just reason to delay entering such a judgment." Denham v. New Carlisle, 86 Ohio St.3d 594, 596, 716 N.E.2d 184 (1999). An order of a court is final and appealable only if it meets the requirements of both Civ.R. 54(B) and R.C. 2505.02. Chef Italiano Corp. v. Kent State Univ., 44 Ohio St.3d 86, 88, 541 N.E.2d 64 (1989).

{¶ 15} Here, the FCCCP's decision granting Secretary LaRose's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim met the requirements of R.C. 2505.02, as it affected a substantial right, namely Logan's ability to recover against Secretary LaRose. In addition, the trial court's dismissal of Secretary LaRose, in effect, determined the outcome of Logan's case against Secretary LaRose.

{¶ 16} The...

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