State ex rel. Beacon Journal v. Bond, No. 2001-1702.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtMoyer
Citation2002 Ohio 7117,98 Ohio St.3d 146,781 N.E.2d 180
PartiesThe STATE ex rel. BEACON JOURNAL PUBLISHING COMPANY, Appellee and Cross-Appellant, v. BOND, Judge; Cirigliano, Judge, Appellant and Cross-Appellee.
Decision Date24 December 2002
Docket NumberNo. 2001-1702.
781 N.E.2d 180
98 Ohio St.3d 146
2002 Ohio 7117
The STATE ex rel. BEACON JOURNAL PUBLISHING COMPANY, Appellee and Cross-Appellant,
v.
BOND, Judge; Cirigliano, Judge, Appellant and Cross-Appellee.
No. 2001-1702.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
Submitted September 18, 2002.
Decided December 24, 2002.

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Edward G. Kemp and Karen C. Lefton, for appellee and cross-appellant.

Sherri Bevan Walsh, Summit County Prosecuting Attorney, Holly Ensign Reese and Sandy James Rubino, Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellant and cross-appellee.

Sherri Bevan Walsh, Summit County Prosecuting Attorney, Holly Ensign Reese and Sandy James Rubino, Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellant and cross-appellee.

Baker & Hostetler LLP and David Lindsey Marburger, Cleveland, for amid curiae Ohio Coalition for Open Government and Ohio News Association.

Timothy Daly Smith, for amicus curiae Ohio Citizens for Honesty, Integrity and Openness in Government, Inc.

John C. Weisensell, Akron, for amicus curiae Summit County Trial Lawyers Association.

MOYER, C.J.


I. Facts and Procedural History

{¶ 1} Relator-appellee and cross-appellant, the Beacon Journal Publishing Company ("the Beacon Journal"), publishes a daily newspaper known as the "Akron Beacon Journal." On October 19, 2000, the Beacon Journal submitted an informal request in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, seeking production of the jury questionnaires and the list of juror names and addresses completed in connection with the criminal prosecution of Denny Ross. The trial court denied the Beacon Journal's request, ordering that such information "be held under seal by the court and filed for record at the close of the proceedings."

{¶ 2} The underlying criminal action against Denny Ross originated in May 1999, during which time Ross was arrested and charged with aggravated murder, murder, rape, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse. The prosecution later alleged two special circumstances — murder during rape and

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murder during kidnapping — thereby rendering Ross eligible for the death penalty.

{¶ 3} The Ross trial commenced with jury selection in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, Judge Jane Bond presiding. Pursuant to a motion by Ross and with the agreement of the prosecution, Judge Bond ordered the 290 prospective jurors to complete a questionnaire containing 67 questions that, inter alia, inquired into medical history, criminal record, and religious beliefs. After representing to the jurors that they would be identified only by number and that their responses would not be made public, Judge Bond distributed the questionnaires and provided copies of the responses to both parties. From these questionnaires, the parties conducted oral voir dire and impaneled a 12-member jury.

{¶ 4} During the trial, Phil Trexler, a reporter from the Akron Beacon Journal, made an oral request for production of the juror questionnaires and the list of juror names and addresses. Judge Bond denied the request and sua sponte filed a journal entry to that effect, observing that "the extraordinary level of pretrial publicity requires the protection of the privacy of the jurors and is necessary to assure [sic] the independence and integrity of the jury and to avoid complete sequestration during the trial." Despite these efforts to preserve jury integrity, Judge Bond later declared a mistrial on account of juror misconduct and discharged the jury from service.1

{¶ 5} The Beacon Journal thereafter filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the Court of Appeals for Summit County, seeking an order directing the trial court to release the juror questionnaires and the list of juror names and addresses pursuant to R.C. 149.43 and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court of appeals, construing the petition for writ of mandamus as a petition for writ of prohibition, granted partial summary judgment in favor of the Beacon Journal. In so holding, the court concluded that (1) the juror questionnaires and the list of juror names and addresses were not "public records" subject to inspection under R.C. 149.43, (2) the Beacon Journal had no constitutional right to the juror names and addresses prior to the close of proceedings, and (3) the First Amendment guaranteed the Beacon Journal a right of public access to the questionnaires absent specific findings that "`closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest,'" quoting Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court (1984), 464 U.S. 501, 510, 104 S.Ct. 819, 78 L.Ed.2d 629.

{¶ 6} This cause is now before this court upon an appeal as of right.

II. Analysis

{¶ 7} This appeal presents two legal issues: (1) whether juror questionnaires and a list of juror names and addresses are "public records" subject to inspection under R.C. 149.43, and (2) whether such information is subject to inspection under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 11, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, and Section 16, Article I of the Ohio Constitution. This is a case of first impression before this court.

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A. Public Records Request

{¶ 8} The Beacon Journal asserts that the juror questionnaires and the list of juror names and addresses are "public records" subject to disclosure under R.C. 149.43. As a preliminary matter, we note that the Public Records Act "must be construed liberally in favor of broad access, and any doubt should be resolved in favor of disclosure of public records." State ex rel. Strothers v. Wertheim (1997), 80 Ohio St.3d 155, 156, 684 N.E.2d 1239. Further, the government bears the burden of establishing that the requested information is exempt from disclosure. State ex rel. Natl. Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. Cleveland (1988), 38 Ohio St.3d 79, 83, 526 N.E.2d 786. Against this backdrop, we review the language of the Public Records Act.

{¶ 9} Pursuant to R.C. 149.43(A)(1), "public records" are "records kept by any public office." As there is no dispute that the trial court is a "public office" under R.C. 149.011(A), the sole public records issue is whether the jury list and the juror questionnaires fall within the statutory definition of a "record." R.C. 149.011(G) defines "records" to include "any document * * * created or received by or coming under the jurisdiction of any public office * * *, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office." To the extent that an item does not serve to document the activities of a public office, it is not a public record and need not be disclosed. State ex rel. Fant v. Enright (1993), 66 Ohio St.3d 186, 188, 610 N.E.2d 997.

{¶ 10} We recently addressed whether personal information held by a public office falls within the statutory definition of a "record" in State ex rel. McCleary v. Roberts (2000), 88 Ohio St.3d 365, 725 N.E.2d 1144. In McCleary, the city of Columbus implemented a photo identification program requiring parents of children who used Columbus pools to provide the Recreation and Parks Department with personal information regarding their children. Holding that such information was not subject to disclosure, we observed that "[s]tanding alone, that information, i.e., names of children, home addresses, names of parents and guardians, and medical information, does nothing to document any aspect of the City's Recreation and Parks Department." Id. at 368, 725 N.E.2d 1144.

{¶ 11} Our reasoning in McCleary applies with equal force to the juror questionnaire responses and the list of juror names and addresses. The disclosure of information regarding prospective and impaneled jurors does little to ensure the accountability of government or shed light on the trial court's performance of its statutory duties. As we noted in McCleary, disclosure of information about private citizens is not required when such information "`reveals little or nothing about an agency's own conduct'" and "would do nothing to further the purposes of the Act." 88 Ohio St.3d at 368 and 369, 725 N.E.2d 1144, quoting United States Dept. of Justice v. Reporters Commt. for Freedom of the Press (1989), 489 U.S. 749, 780, 109 S.Ct. 1468, 103 L.Ed.2d 774.

{¶ 12} The Beacon Journal nonetheless relies on our holding in State ex rel. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers v. Gosser (1985), 20 Ohio St.3d 30, 20 OBR 279, 485 N.E.2d 706, paragraph one of the syllabus, for the proposition that "[a]ny document appertaining to * * * the proceedings of a court, or any record necessary to the execution of the responsibilities of a governmental unit is a `public record.'" The Gosser court noted, however, that if "the requested documents are received by, are under the jurisdiction of, and are utilized

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by, the court to render its decision, then * * * [they] could reasonably be classified as `public records.'" (Emphasis added.) Id. at 33, 20 OBR 279, 485 N.E.2d 706. Unlike the records at issue in Gosser, the trial court in the case sub judice did not use the requested information in rendering its decision, but rather collected the questionnaires for the benefit of litigants in selecting an impartial jury and maintained the jurors' names and addresses for the administrative purpose of identifying and contacting individual jurors.

{¶ 13} Because the juror questionnaire responses and the list of juror names and addresses are not "records," it follows that they cannot be "public records" subject to disclosure under R.C. 149.43. Nevertheless, we distinguish between the responses to the juror questionnaires and the actual questions from which such responses were solicited. Whereas responses to juror questionnaires are completed by individual jurors, the questions that elicit such responses are invariably written or approved by the trial court....

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  • Narciso v. Powell Police Dep't, Case No. 2018-01195PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • October 22, 2018
    ...for Freedom of the Press (1989), 489 U.S. 749, 780, 109 S.Ct. 1468, 103 L.Ed.2d 774.State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publ'g Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St.3d 146, 2002-Ohio-7117, 781 N.E.2d 180, ¶ 9-13. Accord Dispatch at ¶ 27. See International Union, United Auto., Aerospace & Agric. Implement Worker......
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
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    ...believes it has a countervailing constitutional claim to the recording. See State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publishing Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St.3d 146, 2002-Ohio-7117, 781 N.E.2d 180, ¶ 15–16. The parties therefore contend that in order to determine whether the Constitution prohibits release of......
  • Xxl of Ohio, Inc. v. City of Broadview Heights, No. 1:01CV2514.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • January 13, 2004
    ...85 Ohio St.3d 524, 528, 709 N.E.2d 1148, 1152 (1999) (citations omitted); see also State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publ'g Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St.3d 146, 150, 781 N.E.2d 180, 187 3. XXL also alleges that the City violates the First Amendment because it discriminates in its enforcement of the s......
  • Kish v. Akron, No. 2004-0738.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • March 20, 2006
    ...the activities of a public office can satisfy the definition of "record." State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publishing Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St.3d 146, 2002-Ohio-7117, 781 N.E.2d 180, ¶ 13. Indeed, any record that a government actor uses to document the organization, policies, functions, decision......
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67 cases
  • Narciso v. Powell Police Dep't, Case No. 2018-01195PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • October 22, 2018
    ...for Freedom of the Press (1989), 489 U.S. 749, 780, 109 S.Ct. 1468, 103 L.Ed.2d 774.State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publ'g Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St.3d 146, 2002-Ohio-7117, 781 N.E.2d 180, ¶ 9-13. Accord Dispatch at ¶ 27. See International Union, United Auto., Aerospace & Agric. Implement Worker......
  • State ex rel. Enquirer v. Sage, No. 2013–0945.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • March 19, 2015
    ...believes it has a countervailing constitutional claim to the recording. See State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publishing Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St.3d 146, 2002-Ohio-7117, 781 N.E.2d 180, ¶ 15–16. The parties therefore contend that in order to determine whether the Constitution prohibits release of......
  • Xxl of Ohio, Inc. v. City of Broadview Heights, No. 1:01CV2514.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • January 13, 2004
    ...85 Ohio St.3d 524, 528, 709 N.E.2d 1148, 1152 (1999) (citations omitted); see also State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publ'g Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St.3d 146, 150, 781 N.E.2d 180, 187 3. XXL also alleges that the City violates the First Amendment because it discriminates in its enforcement of the s......
  • Kish v. Akron, No. 2004-0738.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • March 20, 2006
    ...the activities of a public office can satisfy the definition of "record." State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publishing Co. v. Bond, 98 Ohio St.3d 146, 2002-Ohio-7117, 781 N.E.2d 180, ¶ 13. Indeed, any record that a government actor uses to document the organization, policies, functions, decision......
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