State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Geer, No. 2007-0323.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtLanzinger
Citation2007 Ohio 4643,114 Ohio St.3d 511,873 N.E.2d 314
Decision Date26 September 2007
Docket NumberNo. 2007-0323.
PartiesThe STATE ex rel. DISPATCH PRINTING COMPANY v. GEER, Judge.
873 N.E.2d 314
114 Ohio St.3d 511
2007-Ohio-4643
The STATE ex rel. DISPATCH PRINTING COMPANY
v.
GEER, Judge.
No. 2007-0323.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
Submitted May 1, 2007.
Decided September 26, 2007.

[873 N.E.2d 315]

Zeiger, Tigges & Little, L.L.P., Marion H. Little Jr., and Matthew S. Zeiger, for relator.

Ron O'Brien, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney, and Nick A. Soulas Jr., First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for respondent.

LANZINGER, J.


114 Ohio St.3d 511

{¶ 1} This is an original action for a writ of prohibition to prevent a juvenile court judge from enforcing an order forbidding the media from photographing the face of an alleged delinquent and from entering any further proceedings unless and until all notice, evidentiary-hearing, and finding requirements are satisfied. Because Sup.R. 12(A) requires judges to permit the taking of photographs in court proceedings that are open to the public as provided by law, and the juvenile court did not hear evidence and argument and make the requisite findings in accordance with the applicable law before preventing photographs of the alleged juvenile delinquent's face, we grant the writ.

{¶ 2} Relator, the Dispatch Printing Company ("Dispatch"), publishes the Columbus Dispatch, a daily central Ohio newspaper. In September 2006, the Dispatch learned of the arrests of three juveniles charged with delinquency counts of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery related to the death of

114 Ohio St.3d 512

Terry Ward. The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, scheduled a plea hearing for one of the juveniles, Elijah Nichols, who was 15 years old at that time, for the morning of February 16, 2007.

{¶ 3} On February 15, upon learning of the plea hearing and in accordance with Sup.R. 12(A) and Loc.R. 9(1) of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, the Dispatch filed a written

873 N.E.2d 316

request with respondent, Judge Christopher J. Geer of the juvenile court, to photograph the proceedings in the case.

{¶ 4} On February 16, at the beginning of the plea hearing, the judge asked whether anyone objected to the Dispatch's presence at the hearing. The parents of the alleged juvenile delinquent objected to any photographs of the juvenile. In response to the Dispatch's request and the parents' objection, the judge issued an order allowing the Dispatch to photograph the proceedings, but forbidding any photographs of the juvenile's face. He determined that approval of the Dispatch's request — with the caveat preventing pictures of the juvenile's face — "would not distract participants, impair the dignity of the proceedings or otherwise materially interfere with the achievement of a fair trial or hearing herein."

{¶ 5} Judge Geer held no evidentiary hearing and made no findings based on evidence to support his decision preventing the Dispatch from photographing the juvenile's face. There was also no prior notice that the judge intended to consider any restriction on photographing the proceedings.

{¶ 6} The Dispatch objected to the ruling and requested time to notify its counsel to participate in any closure hearing. The judge denied the Dispatch's objection and request and proceeded to conduct the plea hearing while forbidding any photographs of the juvenile's face.

{¶ 7} Later on that same day, February 16, the Dispatch filed this action for a writ of prohibition to prevent Judge Geer from enforcing his February 16 order barring the Dispatch from taking photographs of the juvenile's face in the delinquency proceeding and to prevent the judge from closing further judicial proceedings unless and until notice, hearing, and finding requirements have been met. On February 21, we granted an alternative writ and issued an expedited schedule for the presentation of evidence and briefs. State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Geer, 112 Ohio St.3d 1480, 2007-Ohio-704, 861 N.E.2d 819. The Dispatch submitted evidence, and the parties filed briefs.

{¶ 8} This cause is now before the court for our consideration of the Dispatch's prohibition claim.

Mootness

{¶ 9} Judge Geer contends that this case is moot because the February 16 plea hearing in the underlying case has now concluded and "there is no longer an order to be enforced."

114 Ohio St.3d 513

{¶ 10} A claim is not moot if it is capable of repetition, yet evading review. State ex rel. Law Office of Montgomery Cty. Pub. Defender v. Rosencrans, 111 Ohio St.3d 338, 2006-Ohio-5793, 856 N.E.2d 250, ¶ 16. "This exception applies only in exceptional circumstances in which the following two factors are both present: (1) the challenged action is too short in its duration to be fully litigated before its cessation or expiration, and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again." State ex rel. Calvary v. Upper Arlington (2000), 89 Ohio St.3d 229, 231, 729 N.E.2d 1182.

{¶ 11} Like more typical orders, the February 16 order barring the Dispatch from taking photographs of the juvenile's face during the plea hearing in the delinquency proceeding was too brief in its duration to be fully litigated before the plea hearing concluded. See State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publishing Co. v. Donaldson (1992), 63 Ohio St.3d 173, 175, 586 N.E.2d 101.

{¶ 12} In addition, there is a reasonable expectation that the judge will subject the

873 N.E.2d 317

Dispatch to comparable orders in the future. Judge Geer states his continued belief that "a closure hearing is not necessary when merely restricting the photographing of a witness" and maintains that his order "was specifically authorized" by Sup.R. 12.

{¶ 13} Therefore, the Dispatch's prohibition claim is not moot, because it is capable of repetition, yet evading review. Thus, we now proceed to address the merits of the Dispatch's claim.

Prohibition

{¶ 14} We have determined the propriety of access restrictions in the context of extraordinary-writ actions. See, e.g., State ex rel. Natl. Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. Lake Cty. Court of Common Pleas (1990), 52 Ohio St.3d 104, 114, 556 N.E.2d 1120 (granting writ of prohibition to prevent trial court judge from enforcing ban on photographing, filming, or taping of...

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