Schlegel v. Sweeney, 2022-0025

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtDEWINE, J.
Citation2022 Ohio 3841
PartiesSchlegel v. Sweeney, Judge, et al.
Docket Number2022-0025
Decision Date01 November 2022

2022-Ohio-3841

Schlegel
v.
Sweeney, Judge, et al.

No. 2022-0025

Supreme Court of Ohio

November 1, 2022


Submitted August 2, 2022

IN PROHIBITION.

Johnson &Johnson Law Firm and Molly K. Johnson, for relator.

Comstock, Springer &Wilson Co., L.P.A., and Marshall D. Buck, for respondents Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney, Mahoning County Auditor Ralph T. Meacham, and Mahoning County Treasurer Daniel R. Yemma.

Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld &Lodge, L.P.A., James E. Roberts, and Elizabeth H. Farbman, for respondent Board of Commissioners of the Mill Creek Metropolitan Park District.

DEWINE, J.

{¶ 1} We are asked to issue a writ of prohibition to stop an ongoing appropriation case. A lawsuit is pending in the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas in which the Mill Creek Metropolitan Park District seeks to take Edward Schlegel's property so it can build a bike trail. During the pendency of the

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case, the General Assembly passed a law that said that a park district in Mahoning County may not use its eminent-domain power to build a recreational trail.

{¶ 2} Based on this new law, Schlegel filed suit in this court asking us to issue a writ of prohibition halting the Mahoning County appropriation proceeding. The new law, Schlegel argues, divests the Mahoning County court of jurisdiction. We are not convinced that the new law is a jurisdictional bar, so we deny Schlegel's request for a writ of prohibition.

I. An appropriation action and a new law

{¶ 3} In 2019, the Mill Creek Metropolitan Park District filed an appropriation action seeking to use its eminent-domain power to take Schlegel's property in order to extend an existing bike trail. While that case was pending, the General Assembly enacted a law (the "anti-appropriation provision") that said, "No park district created under Chapter 1545. of the Revised Code and located in a county with not less than 220,000 and not more than 240,000 residents * * * shall appropriate property * * * for the purpose of providing a recreational trail." Am.Sub.H.B. No. 110, Section 715.05(B).

{¶ 4} Schlegel asked the court of common pleas to dismiss the appropriation case, pointing out that the park district was in Mahoning County and that the county fell within the designated population range. Concluding that the statute was not retroactive, the court denied Schlegel's motion to dismiss.

{¶ 5} Schlegel then filed the instant lawsuit in this court seeking a writ of prohibition. Judge Maureen Sweeney, who is presiding over the appropriation action, argues that the writ should be denied because Schlegel has an adequate remedy by way of appeal and her court has general subject-matter jurisdiction. We previously granted an alternative writ in this matter to receive evidence and briefing. 166 Ohio St.3d 1482, 2022-Ohio-1284, 186 N.E.3d 813.

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II. Schlegel is not entitled to a writ of prohibition

{¶ 6} To be entitled to a writ of prohibition, Schlegel must establish that the trial court has exercised judicial power, that the court exceeded its authority, and that he lacks an adequate remedy for his injury in the ordinary course of law. State ex rel. Drouhard v. Morrow Cty. Bd. of Commrs., 161 Ohio St.3d 357, 2020-Ohio-4160, 163 N.E.3d 518, ¶ 17. In the vast majority of cases, "a court having general subject-matter jurisdiction can determine its own jurisdiction, and a party contesting that jurisdiction has an adequate remedy by appeal." State ex rel. Plant v. Cosgrove, 119 Ohio St.3d 264, 2008-Ohio-3838, 893 N.E.2d 485, ¶ 5. We dispense with the adequate-remedy requirement only in the limited circumstance when the inferior court patently and unambiguously lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over a cause of action. State ex rel. Ohio Edison Co. v. Parrott, 73 Ohio St.3d 705, 707, 654 N.E.2d 106 (1995).

{¶ 7} Schlegel's claim fails because he cannot meet the third prong: he has an adequate remedy at law by way of an appeal following final judgment in the common pleas court. And he is unable to satisfy the narrow exception to the adequate-remedy requirement because he cannot demonstrate a patent and unambiguous lack of jurisdiction in the common pleas court.

A. Schlegel has an adequate remedy by way of appeal

{¶ 8} The trial court held that the anti-appropriation provision does not apply to Schlegel's case. Schlegel can challenge that determination by filing an appeal from a final judgment of the common pleas court. The availability of an "appeal is considered an adequate remedy that will preclude a writ of prohibition." State ex rel. Huntington Natl. Bank v. Kontos, 145 Ohio St.3d 102, 2015-Ohio-5190, 47 N.E.3d 133, ¶ 17.

{¶ 9} Schlegel contends that he has no ability to appeal the trial court's denial of the motion to dismiss because of the bifurcated nature of appropriation...

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