State ex rel. Copeland v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab. & Corr., 110667

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Citation2021 Ohio 3464
Docket Number110667
Decision Date24 September 2021




No. 110667

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

September 24, 2021

Writs of Mandamus and Prohibition Motion No. 548114 Order No. 549154

Anthony Copeland, pro se.

Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and James E. Moss, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for respondent Judge Richard Bell



{¶ 1} Relator, Anthony Copeland, seeks writs of mandamus and prohibition to compel respondents, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Bureau of Sentencing Computation ("ODRC"), and Judge Richard Bell, [1]to properly calculate his period of incarceration and parole eligibility dates regarding two criminal cases. For the reasons that follow, we deny the requested writs.

I. Background

{¶ 2} According to Copeland's complaint filed July 16, 2021, he was a defendant in two criminal cases in the late 1980s. In State v. Copeland, Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-214421, he was sentenced to an indefinite period of incarceration of between ten and 25 years, in addition to six years imprisonment for firearm specifications. The firearm specifications were required to be served prior to the indefinite sentence. In State v. Copeland, Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-213510, he was sentenced to an additional indefinite sentence of between ten and 25 years. The trial court ordered this sentence to be served prior to and consecutive to the sentence imposed in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-214421.

{¶ 3} Copeland alleges in his complaint that ODRC improperly calculated his initial parole date. According to relator's calculations, he should have been eligible for parole after serving 7.5 years of his sentence in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-213510.

{¶ 4} Respondent judge filed a motion for summary judgment on August 13, 2021. Copeland also filed a premature motion for summary judgment on July 22, 2021, which was held in abeyance pending service of the complaint and filings from respondents. ODRC failed to respond to the complaint. As a result, Copeland filed a motion for default judgment and brief in opposition to respondent judge's motion for summary judgment[2] on September 2, 2021.

I. Law and Analysis

A. Standards Applicable to this Original Act

{¶ 5} In order to obtain a writ of mandamus, a successful relator is required to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that relator has a clear legal right to the requested relief, respondent has a clear legal duty to provide this relief, and the relator lacks an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. State ex rel Manor Care, Inc. v. Bur. of Workers' Comp., 163 Ohio St.3d 87, 2020-Ohio-5373, 168 N.E.3d 434, ¶ 14, quoting State ex rel. Aaron's, Inc. v. Ohio Bur. of Workers' Comp., 148 Ohio St.3d 34, 2016-Ohio-5011, 68 N.E.3d 757, ¶ 18.

{¶ 6} An action for prohibition tests the jurisdiction of a court. A successful relator must establish that a judicial officer "has exercised or is about to exercise judicial power, (2) that the exercise of that power is unauthorized by law, and (3) that denying the writ would result in injury for which no other adequate remedy exists in the ordinary course of law." State ex rel Roush v. Montgomery, 156 Ohio St.3d 351, 2019-Ohio-932, 126 N.E.3d 1118, ¶ 5, citing State ex rel Elder v. Camplese, 144 Ohio St.3d 89, 2015-Ohio-3628, 40 N.E.3d 1138, ¶ 13.

{¶ 7} A portion of this action is before the court on cross-motions for summary judgment. Pursuant to Civ.R. 56(C),

Summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, written admissions, affidavits, transcripts of evidence, and written stipulations of fact, if any, timely filed in the action show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. * * * A summary judgment shall not be rendered unless it appears from the evidence or stipulation, and only from the evidence or stipulation, that 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 that party being entitled to have the evidence or stipulation construed most strongly in the party's favor

{¶ 8} Copeland has also moved for default judgment against ODRC. However, default judgment in an original action may not simply be entered because a party fails to answer the complaint.

"When appropriate, a default judgment may be entered in a mandamus action." State ex rel Youngstown City School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. Youngstown, 84 Ohio St.3d 51, 53, 701 N.E.2d 986 (1998). * * * The analysis whether a default judgment is proper in a mandamus action is essentially the same as an analysis whether a peremptory writ of mandamus is appropriate against a respondent who fails to respond to a complaint. See id. at 53

State ex rel State Farm Mut. Ins. Co. v. O'Donnell, 163 Ohio St.3d 541, 2021-Ohio-1205, 171 N.E.3d 321, ¶ 15. "[A] default judgment may be entered against a political subdivision and its officers only if 'the claimant establishes his claim or right to relief by evidence satisfactory to the court.'" Youngstown at 53, citing Civ.R. 55(D), Civ.R. 8(D), and S.Ct.Prac.R. X(2). Where the claims in a complaint, taken as true, do not entitle a relator to relief, a motion for default judgment may not be entered and the motion is rendered moot. O'Donnell at ¶ 15. This is because "the court looks beyond the simple admissions resulting from a failure to serve a responsive pleading." Youngstown at 53, citing State ex rel. Shimola v. Cleveland, 70 Ohio St.3d 110, 112, 637 N.E.2d 325 (1994).

B. Mandamus and Sentence Computation

{¶ 9} Copeland alleges that ODRC has improperly aggregated his indefinite sentences imposed in two criminal cases such that ODRC is miscalculating the dates of his parole eligibility. He claims that he should have been eligible for parole in 1995, rather than 2003 when his initial parole hearing was conducted.

{¶ 10} Proper calculation of a period of incarceration is an appropriate claim to assert in mandamus. State v. Slager, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 11AP-794, 2012- Ohio-3584, ¶ 16. However, Copeland's complaint is not clear on the precise nature of his claim. Copeland acknowledges that his prison sentences were ordered to be served consecutive to each other. Copeland's motion for summary judgment frames the issue as

whether the [ODRC], through the Bureau of Sentence Computations [("BOSC")] lawfully removed language from a trial court judgment entry in order to aggregate Copeland's sentences as a matter of law pursuant to Ohio R.Civ.P.56, [sic] where they aggregated his sentence to a twenty (20) to fifty (50) year sentence with two (2) three (3) year firearm specifications.
Because Copeland's complaint clearly states ODRC through [BOSC], removed the language "prior to" from the trial court's judgment entry in case No. CR 213510, so that it could aggregate his sentences from two separate convictions in two separate trials of ten (10) to twenty-five (25) years

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT