State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden, No. 2017-1398

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Parties The STATE EX REL. CORDELL v. PADEN, Sheriff.
Decision Date04 April 2019
Docket NumberNo. 2017-1398

156 Ohio St.3d 394
128 N.E.3d 179
2019 Ohio 1216

The STATE EX REL. CORDELL
v.
PADEN, Sheriff.

No. 2017-1398

Supreme Court of Ohio.

Submitted January 29, 2019
Decided April 4, 2019


LaDonna Cordell, pro se.

Joel Blue, Guernsey County Prosecuting Attorney, and James R. Skelton, Jason R. Farley, and Melissa R. Bright, Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, for respondent.

Per Curiam.

156 Ohio St.3d 394

{¶ 1} In this original action, relator, LaDonna Cordell, seeks a writ of mandamus to compel respondent, Jeffrey Paden, the Guernsey County Sheriff ("the sheriff"), to release public records related to a 2007 criminal case against Bryan Bates.

128 N.E.3d 181

We deny Cordell's petition for a writ of mandamus and deny her request for court costs, but we award her statutory damages in the amount of $1,000.

Facts

{¶ 2} On August 9, 2017, Cordell sent the sheriff a letter by regular U.S. Mail seeking public records relating to the criminal case State v. Bates , Guernsey C.P. No. 07 CR 117, including copies of scientific tests, as well as the scientists' notes and reports, police investigative records and work product, and any witness statements. In response, the sheriff sent Cordell an incident report from a search warrant that had been executed against Bates pursuant to the sheriff's office's continuing criminal investigation against him. While the incident report possibly addressed one of Cordell's requests, there is no evidence that the sheriff included a responsive letter with the incident report addressing Cordell's other five record requests.

156 Ohio St.3d 395

{¶ 3} Cordell claimed that the incident report was nonresponsive. So on August 18, 2017, she sent a second request by certified mail. The sheriff did not respond to that second request.

{¶ 4} On October 5, 2017, Cordell filed an original action in this court seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the sheriff to provide the requested records.

{¶ 5} In November 2017, while the mandamus action was pending, the sheriff—through the Guernsey County Prosecuting Attorney—provided Cordell with Bates's "file" and the same incident report that the sheriff had sent to Cordell in August. The prosecuting attorney also informed Cordell that other agencies—not the Guernsey County Sheriff's Office—had conducted the forensic tests and that certain documents were not subject to disclosure.

{¶ 6} Cordell continued requesting the records, and the sheriff continued responding that other than the incident report, his office had no additional records and that other requested records were exempt from disclosure.

Legal Analysis

{¶ 7} Mandamus is the appropriate remedy by which to compel compliance with Ohio's Public Records Act, R.C. 149.43. See State ex rel. Physicians Commt. for Responsible Medicine v. Ohio State Univ. Bd. of Trustees , 108 Ohio St.3d 288, 2006-Ohio-903, 843 N.E.2d 174, ¶ 6. The Public Records Act "is construed liberally in favor of 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).

{¶ 8} The parties do not dispute that the sheriff's office is a "public office" subject to the requirements of the Public Records Act. R.C. 149.011(A). The sheriff, however, has "no duty to create or provide access to nonexistent records." State ex rel. Lanham v. Smith , 112 Ohio St.3d 527, 2007-Ohio-609, 861 N.E.2d 530, ¶ 15. It is Cordell's burden to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the records that she requested exist and are public records maintained by the sheriff's office. State ex rel. Gooden v. Kagel , 138 Ohio St.3d 343, 2014-Ohio-869, 6 N.E.3d 1170, ¶ 8. "[U]nlike in other mandamus cases, ‘[r]elators in public-records mandamus cases need not establish the lack of an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law.’ " (Second brackets sic.) State ex rel. Kesterson v. Kent State Univ. , 156 Ohio St.3d 22, 2018-Ohio-5110, 123 N.E.3d 895, ¶ 12, quoting...

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46 practice notes
  • Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, Case No. 2019-00789PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • August 25, 2020
    ...the requester of that denial and provide the reasons for that denial. R.C. 149.43(B)(1) and (3)." State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden, 156 Ohio St.3d 394, 2019-Ohio-1216, 128 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 11. Timeliness is important because "[w]hen records are available for public inspection and copyi......
  • State ex rel. Cable News Network, Inc. v. Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Sch., No. 2019CA0047
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • October 2, 2019
    ...in favor of broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclosure of public records.’ " State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden , 156 Ohio St.3d 394, 2019-Ohio-1216, 128 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 7, quoting State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty. , 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d 334......
  • State ex rel. Fair Hous. Opportunities of Nw. Ohio v. Ohio Fair Plan, 20AP-351
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • February 10, 2022
    ...period of time" depends upon all the pertinent facts and circumstances of the case. State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden , 156 Ohio St.3d 394, 2019-Ohio-1216, 128 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 12, citing State ex rel. Morgan v. Strickland , 121 Ohio St.3d 600, 2009-Ohio-1901, 906 N.E.2d 1105, ¶ 10. The requ......
  • Welsh-Huggins v. Jefferson Cnty. Prosecutor's Office, No. 2019-1481
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • November 24, 2020
    ...in favor of broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclosure of public records.’ " State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden , 156 Ohio St.3d 394, 2019-Ohio-1216, 128 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 7, quoting State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty. , 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d 334......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, Case No. 2019-00789PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • August 25, 2020
    ...the requester of that denial and provide the reasons for that denial. R.C. 149.43(B)(1) and (3)." State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden, 156 Ohio St.3d 394, 2019-Ohio-1216, 128 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 11. Timeliness is important because "[w]hen records are available for public inspection and copying is ofte......
  • State ex rel. Cable News Network, Inc. v. Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Sch., No. 2019CA0047
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • October 2, 2019
    ...in favor of broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclosure of public records.’ " State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden , 156 Ohio St.3d 394, 2019-Ohio-1216, 128 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 7, quoting State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty. , 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d 334 (199......
  • State ex rel. Fair Hous. Opportunities of Nw. Ohio v. Ohio Fair Plan, 20AP-351
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • February 10, 2022
    ...a "reasonable period of time" depends upon all the pertinent facts and circumstances of the case. State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden , 156 Ohio St.3d 394, 2019-Ohio-1216, 128 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 12, citing State ex rel. Morgan v. Strickland , 121 Ohio St.3d 600, 2009-Ohio-1901, 906 N.E.2d 1105, ¶ 10.......
  • Welsh-Huggins v. Jefferson Cnty. Prosecutor's Office, No. 2019-1481
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • November 24, 2020
    ...in favor of broad access, and any doubt is resolved in favor of disclosure of public records.’ " State ex rel. Cordell v. Paden , 156 Ohio St.3d 394, 2019-Ohio-1216, 128 N.E.3d 179, ¶ 7, quoting State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty. , 75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d 334 (199......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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