State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty., Nos. 95-675

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; MOYER; DOUGLAS; FRANCIS E. SWEENEY, Sr.; PFEIFER; DOUGLAS; PFEIFER
Citation75 Ohio St.3d 374,662 N.E.2d 334
Parties, 24 Media L. Rep. 1827 The STATE ex rel. CINCINNATI ENQUIRER v. HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio. The STATE ex rel. CINCINNATI ENQUIRER v. CINCINNATI. The STATE ex rel. CINCINNATI POST v. HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio. The STATE ex rel. CINCINNATI POST v. CINCINNATI.
Decision Date06 March 1996
Docket Number95-677,95-686 and 95-843,Nos. 95-675

Page 374

75 Ohio St.3d 374
662 N.E.2d 334, 24 Media L. Rep. 1827
The STATE ex rel. CINCINNATI ENQUIRER
v.
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio.
The STATE ex rel. CINCINNATI ENQUIRER
v.
CINCINNATI.
The STATE ex rel. CINCINNATI POST
v.
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio.
The STATE ex rel. CINCINNATI POST
v.
CINCINNATI.
Nos. 95-675, 95-677, 95-686 and 95-843.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
Submitted Dec. 12, 1995.
Decided March 6, 1996.

Keating, Muething & Klekamp, Richard L. Creighton, Jr. and Michael L. Scheier, Cincinnati, for relator in case Nos. 95-675 and 95-677.

Baker & Hosetetler, David L. Marburger, Hilary W. Rule and Bruce W. Sanford, Cleveland, for relator in case Nos. 95-686 and 95-843.

Joseph T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and William E. Breyer, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for respondent in case Nos. 95-675 and 95-686.

Fay D. Dupuis, Cincinnati City Solicitor, and Karl P. Kadon, Deputy City Solicitor, for respondent in case Nos. 95-677 and 95-843.

PER CURIAM.

These cases involve the disclosure of 911 tapes under Ohio's Public Records Act, R.C. 149.43. For the reasons that follow, we hold that 911 tapes in general, as well as the particular 911 tapes requested in these cases, are public records which are not exempt from disclosure.

Mandamus is the appropriate remedy to compel compliance with R.C. 149.43. State ex rel. Multimedia, Inc. v. Snowden (1995), 72 Ohio St.3d 141, 142, 647 N.E.2d 1374, 1377. R.C. 149.43 is construed liberally in favor of broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclosure of public records. State ex rel. Thomas v. Ohio State Univ. (1994), 71 Ohio St.3d 245, 246, 643 N.E.2d 126, 128.

Nine-one-one tapes are "records" for purposes of R.C. 149.43, and they are held by Hamilton County and Cincinnati, which constitute "public offices" under the Act. R.C. 149.43(A)(1); R.C. 149.011(A) and (G); Thomas, supra, 71 Ohio St.3d at 246-247, 643 N.E.2d at 128; State ex rel. Margolius v. Cleveland (1992), 62 Ohio St.3d 456, 461, 584 N.E.2d 665, 670 (public record may be in the form of paper, videotape, magnetic tape, or magnetic disk). 1

Respondents assert that the requested records are excepted from disclosure under R.C. 149.43(A)(1) and (A)(2). Hamilton County also asserts that its records are excepted under R.C. 149.43(A)(4). Exceptions to disclosure must be strictly construed against the custodian of public records, and the burden to

Page 377

establish an exception is on the custodian. State ex rel. James v. Ohio State Univ. (1994), 70 Ohio St.3d 168, 169, 637 N.E.2d 911, 912. With the foregoing general standards in mind, we turn to the specific claims of the parties.

Case Nos. 95-675 and 95-686

Both of these cases involve the Orr 911 tapes. Transcripts of the tapes were submitted to the court under seal by Hamilton[662 N.E.2d 337] County. During Orr's criminal trial, the tapes relating to the 911 calls were apparently introduced into evidence. In that the disputed records have now been publicly revealed, relators are entitled to the requested writs of mandamus. State ex rel. Newton v. Court of Claims (1995), 73 Ohio St.3d 553, 557, 653 N.E.2d 366, 370, quoting Oregon v. Dansack (1993), 68 Ohio St.3d 1, 4, 623 N.E.2d 20, 22 ("[I]n mandamus actions * * * 'a court is not limited to considering facts and circumstances at the time a proceeding is instituted, but should consider the facts and conditions at the time it determines whether to issue a peremptory writ.' ").

However, given the importance of the issues raised and the county's continuing practice of withholding from the public 911 tapes which initiate criminal investigations, we proceed to determine if Hamilton County properly rejected relators' requests for the records at the time the county refused disclosure. See, e.g., State ex rel. Fenley v. Kyger (1995), 72 Ohio St.3d 164, 165, 648 N.E.2d 493, 494.

The Enquirer initially asserts that 911 tapes are public records which are subject to immediate release upon request, since no exception to disclosure is ever applicable. Hamilton County counters, and the Enquirer's fellow relator, the Post, agrees, 2 that 911 tapes are limitless in possible content and could conceivably contain information protected from disclosure under some exception.

Basic 911 systems, including the ones used by HCCC and CPCC, are systems "in which a caller provides information on the nature of and location of an emergency, and the personnel receiving the call must determine the appropriate emergency service provider to respond at that location." R.C. 4931.40(B). For example, HCCC automatically records 911 calls, which do not include the personal opinions of its employees. HCCC employees do not act under the direction of the county prosecutor or law enforcement officials when receiving and responding to 911 calls. HCCC employees are not employees of any law enforcement agency and are not trained in criminal investigation. The HCCC 911 operators simply compile information and do not investigate. The 911 tapes are not made in order to preserve evidence for criminal prosecution. Nine-one-

Page 378

one calls that are received by HCCC are always initiated by the callers. According to CPCC Senior Police Sergeant Schrand, a 911 call involving criminal conduct is essentially a citizen's initial report of the criminal incident, which could typically trigger a police investigation.

From the foregoing, it is evident that 911 tapes are not prepared by attorneys or other law enforcement officials. Instead, 911 calls are routinely recorded without any specific investigatory purpose in mind. There is no expectation of privacy when a person makes a 911 call. Instead, there is an expectation that the information provided will be recorded and disclosed to the public. Moreover, because 911 calls generally precede offense or...

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147 practice notes
  • State ex rel. Enquirer v. Sage, No. 2013–0945.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • March 19, 2015
    ...Carpenter v. Tubbs Jones, 72 Ohio St.3d 579, 580, 651 N.E.2d 993 (1995) ; see also State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty., 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 378, 662 N.E.2d 334 (1996) ("the fact that the tapes in question subsequently came into the possession and/or control of a prosecutor, [o......
  • State ex rel. Dann v. Taft, No. 2005-1222.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • April 13, 2006
    ...Cty., 104 Ohio St.3d 660, 2004-Ohio-7108, 821 N.E.2d 564, ¶ 7, quoting State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty. (1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d {¶ 21} There is no dispute that the governor's office is a public office, the governor is a public official, and the requested......
  • State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Pike Cnty. Coroner's Office, Nos. 2016–1115
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • December 14, 2017
    ...broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclosure of public records." State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty. , 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d 334 (1996). Exceptions to disclosure under the act are strictly construed against the record's custodian, who has the bu......
  • Hale v. Shoop, CASE NO. 1:18-cv-504
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • March 31, 2021
    ...years earlier, possibly even before he filed his state post-conviction petition. See State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty., 662 N.E.2d 334, 336 (Ohio 1996) (Ohio's Public Records Act "is construed liberally in favor of broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclos......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
147 cases
  • State ex rel. Enquirer v. Sage, No. 2013–0945.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • March 19, 2015
    ...Carpenter v. Tubbs Jones, 72 Ohio St.3d 579, 580, 651 N.E.2d 993 (1995) ; see also State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty., 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 378, 662 N.E.2d 334 (1996) ("the fact that the tapes in question subsequently came into the possession and/or control of a prosecutor, [o......
  • State ex rel. Dann v. Taft, No. 2005-1222.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • April 13, 2006
    ...Cty., 104 Ohio St.3d 660, 2004-Ohio-7108, 821 N.E.2d 564, ¶ 7, quoting State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty. (1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d {¶ 21} There is no dispute that the governor's office is a public office, the governor is a public official, and the requested......
  • State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Pike Cnty. Coroner's Office, Nos. 2016–1115
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • December 14, 2017
    ...broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclosure of public records." State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty. , 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d 334 (1996). Exceptions to disclosure under the act are strictly construed against the record's custodian, who has the bu......
  • Hale v. Shoop, CASE NO. 1:18-cv-504
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • March 31, 2021
    ...years earlier, possibly even before he filed his state post-conviction petition. See State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty., 662 N.E.2d 334, 336 (Ohio 1996) (Ohio's Public Records Act "is construed liberally in favor of broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclos......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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