O'Neal v. State

Decision Date13 February 2020
Docket Number No. 19AP-289,No. 19AP-260,19AP-260
Citation146 N.E.3d 605,2020 Ohio 506
Parties James D. O'NEAL et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. STATE of Ohio et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtOhio Court of Appeals

On brief: Law Office of S. Adele Shank, S. Adele Shank ; and Lawrence J. Greger, for appellant James D. O'Neal. Argued: S. Adele Shank.

On brief: Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender, Richard A. Cline and Randall Porter ; Jon M. Sands, Federal Public Defender for the District of Arizona, and Dale A. Baich, for appellant Cleveland Jackson.

On brief: Dave Yost, Attorney General, Charles A. Schneider, and Brenda S. Leikala, for appellees. Argued: Brenda S. Leikala.

DECISION

KLATT, J.

{¶ 1} Plaintiffs-appellants, James D. O'Neal and Cleveland Jackson, appeal from the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas denying their motions for summary judgment and granting the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants-appellees, State of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("ODRC"). Because the parties agree that there are no disputed factual issues and because appellees are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, we affirm.

{¶ 2} Since 1994, ODRC has maintained an execution protocol setting forth comprehensive and detailed procedures to be utilized in carrying out court-ordered executions in Ohio. Over the years, ODRC has revised the execution protocol numerous times, with each subsequent protocol superseding the previous one. The twentieth and most recent version, designated 01-COM-11, became effective on October 7, 2016 and remains in use and effect. Each version of the execution protocol, including the present version, have been promulgated by ODRC as policies, not administrative rules.

{¶ 3} Appellants are inmates in ODRC custody who have been sentenced to death for their crimes. On January 24, 2018, O'Neal filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief "to determine and enforce [his] right * * * not to be subjected to the execution procedures" set forth in 01-COM-11. (Jan. 24, 2018 Compl. at 1-2.)1 O'Neal sought declarations that (1) ODRC failed to comply with the filing requirements of R.C. 111.15 in promulgating 01-COM-11, thus rendering 01-COM-11 invalid and unenforceable; (2) in enacting 01-COM-11, ODRC exceeded the scope of the authority delegated by the General Assembly and thus unconstitutionally usurped legislative powers; and (3) to the extent the General Assembly delegated such powers to ODRC, such action was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. O'Neal maintained that because ODRC lacked the necessary grant of authority to promulgate an execution protocol, ODRC should be permanently enjoined from enacting execution protocols in the future. In the alternative, O'Neal maintained that if ODRC had the authority to promulgate an execution protocol, ODRC should be enjoined from carrying out his execution because the protocol was invalidly promulgated. Jackson later filed a motion to intervene and filed a complaint nearly identical to that filed by O'Neal.2

{¶ 4} On January 25, 2019, all parties filed motions for summary judgment. By opinion and judgment entry filed on April 4, 2019, the trial court denied appellants' motions for summary judgment and granted appellees' motion for summary judgment.

{¶ 5} Appellants separately appealed the trial court's judgment. O'Neal's appeal was docketed under case No. 19AP-260; Jackson's appeal was docketed under case No. 19AP-289. This court sua sponte coordinated the cases for purposes of oral argument and determination. Accordingly, we shall address appellants' appeals in a single decision.

{¶ 6} O'Neal sets forth the following three assignments of error:

[I.] The court below erred when it found that Ohio's execution protocol is not a rule subject to the requirements of R.C. 111.15.
[II.] The court erred when it ruled that the ODRC, when it adopted 01-COM-11, did not exceed the scope of its authority and thus did not unconstitutionally usurp legislative authority.
[III.] The court erred when it found that "there is no unconstitutional delegation of authority in this case."

{¶ 7} Jackson advances the following three assignments of error:

[I.] The trial court erred when it denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the first claim even though defendants failed to comply with R.C. 111.15 when they enacted an internal management rule (ODRC 01-COM-11).
[II.] The trial court erred when it granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the second claim even though defendants' adoption of ODRC 01-COM-11 usurped legislative power reserved to the General Assembly.
[III.] The trial court erred when it granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the third claim. The defendants' adoption of ODRC 01-COM-11 was premised on an unlawful delegation of legislative or rulemaking authority by the General Assembly.

{¶ 8} While appellants have separately appealed the trial court's judgment and set forth separate assignments of error, the issues involved in both appeals are substantially the same, i.e., whether the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to appellees and denying summary judgment to appellants on appellants' claims that (1) ODRC failed to comply with R.C. 111.15 in promulgating 01-COM-11; (2) ODRC usurped the legislative authority of the General Assembly in promulgating 01-COM-11; and (3) the General Assembly unconstitutionally delegated its legislative authority to ODRC to promulgate 01-COM-11.

{¶ 9} Appellate review of summary judgment is de novo. Andersen v. Highland House Co. , 93 Ohio St.3d 547, 548, 757 N.E.2d 329 (2001). " ‘When reviewing a trial court's ruling on summary judgment, the court of appeals conducts an independent review of the record and stands in the shoes of the trial court.’ " Abrams v. Worthington , 169 Ohio App.3d 94, 2006-Ohio-5516, 861 N.E.2d 920, at ¶ 11 (10th Dist.), quoting Mergenthal v. Star Banc Corp. , 122 Ohio App.3d 100, 103, 701 N.E.2d 383 (12th Dist.1997). Civ.R. 56(C) provides that a trial court must grant summary judgment when the moving party demonstrates that (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact, (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and (3) reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion and that conclusion is adverse to the party against whom the motion for summary judgment is made. Gilbert. v. Summit Cty. , 104 Ohio St.3d 660, 2004-Ohio-7108, 821 N.E.2d 564, ¶ 6.

{¶ 10} Here, all parties agree that there are no disputed factual issues in this case; thus, the only issue to be resolved is whether the trial court erred in determining that appellees are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on appellants' claims.

{¶ 11} In their first assignment3 of error, appellants contend the trial court erred in concluding that appellees are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on their claim that appellees failed to comply with R.C. 111.15 in promulgating 01-COM-11.

{¶ 12} At the outset, we note appellees' assertion that appellants' claim that 01-COM-11 is invalid and unenforceable because it was not properly promulgated as a rule under R.C. 111.15 cannot be determined in the context of a declaratory judgment action.

{¶ 13} A declaratory judgment action is a civil action and provides a remedy in addition to other available legal and equitable remedies. Aust v. Ohio State Dental Bd. , 136 Ohio App.3d 677, 681, 737 N.E.2d 605 (10th Dist.2000). "The essential elements for declaratory relief are: (1) a real controversy exists between the parties; (2) the controversy is justiciable in character; and (3) speedy relief is necessary to preserve the rights of the parties." Id. R.C. 2721.02(A) provides, in part, that "courts of record may declare rights, status, and other legal relations whether or not further relief is or could be claimed. * * * The declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and effect. The declaration has the effect of a final judgment or decree." In addition, R.C. 2721.03 provides, in part, that "any person whose rights, status, or other legal relations are affected by a constitutional provision, statute, [or] rule as defined in section 119.01 of the Revised Code * * * may have determined any question of construction or validity arising under the * * * constitutional provision, statute, [or] rule * * * and obtain a declaration of rights, status, or other legal relations under it."

{¶ 14} Appellees contend that R.C. 2721.03 limits the availability of declaratory judgment actions to those cases concerning rules as defined in R.C. 119.01 and does not provide a mechanism for resolving issues pertaining to rules as defined in R.C. 111.15. According to appellees, had the General Assembly so intended, it would have included such reference in R.C. 2721.03 as it did with regard to R.C. Chapter 119 rules. Appellees conclude that because appellants do not allege that 01-COM-11 is a rule as defined in R.C. 119.01, R.C. 2721.03 does not apply.

{¶ 15} Appellants' first cause of action arguably fails to fall within the parameters of a declaratory judgment action. Nonetheless, assuming without deciding, that a declaratory judgment action provides a vehicle for resolving the issue raised in appellants' first cause of action, we address the merits of the assignment of error.

{¶ 16} Agencies such as ODRC that are not subject to the rulemaking requirements in R.C. Chapter 119 are required to promulgate their rules under R.C. 111.15. State ex rel. Ryan v. State Teachers Retirement Sys. , 71 Ohio St.3d 362, 366, 643 N.E.2d 1122 (1994). R.C. 111.15(A) provides:

(1) "Rule" includes any rule, regulation, bylaw, or standard having a general operation adopted by an agency under the authority of the laws governing the agency; any appendix to a rule; and any internal management rule. "Rule" does not include any guideline adopted pursuant to
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