State ex rel. Manley v. Walsh, 2013–0880.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtFRENCH, J.
Citation2014 Ohio 4563,31 N.E.3d 608,142 Ohio St.3d 384
Parties The STATE ex rel. MANLEY, Appellant, v. WALSH, Pros. Atty., et al., Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 2013–0880.,2013–0880.
Decision Date21 October 2014

142 Ohio St.3d 384
31 N.E.3d 608
2014 Ohio 4563

The STATE ex rel. MANLEY, Appellant,
WALSH, Pros.
Atty., et al., Appellees.

No. 2013–0880.

Supreme Court of Ohio.

Submitted Feb. 4, 2014.
Decided Oct. 21, 2014.

31 N.E.3d 610

Toma & Associates, L.P.A., Inc., Timothy N. Toma, Euclid, and Stephen S. Ellsesser, Willoughby Hills, for appellant.

Sherri Bevan Walsh, Summit County Prosecuting Attorney, and Marvin D. Evans, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellees.


142 Ohio St.3d 384

{¶ 1} On February 19, 2010, appellant, John Manley, brought an original action for a writ of mandamus in the Ninth District Court of Appeals against his former employers, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Summit County, Ohio, appellees (collectively "the county"). In his prayer for relief, Manley asked the court to issue a writ compelling payment of "an amount to cover back pay losses," including pension contributions and benefits, based on his allegation that

142 Ohio St.3d 385

the county did not compensate him in accordance with established county pay scales for his position.

{¶ 2} The Ninth District Court of Appeals granted summary judgment in favor of the county, denied Manley's cross-motion for summary judgment, and denied the writ. The Ninth District also denied Manley's motion for sanctions.

{¶ 3} Manley filed a timely appeal to this court and has requested oral argument. For the following reasons, we deny Manley's request for oral argument and affirm the court of appeals' decision.

Factual background

{¶ 4} The parties agree that Manley was hired as an assistant prosecutor in the Summit County Prosecutor's Office on July 1, 2002. They also agree that Manley's position in the office changed as of January 2003 and that Manley's employment terminated in January 2009. But they agree on little else.

{¶ 5} According to Manley, Walsh promoted him to the position of chief counsel, civil division. He cites an interoffice memo in which Walsh wrote, "[e]ffective January 6, 2003, your classification is hereby changed from Assistant Prosecuting Attorney 3 * * * to Chief Counsel/Civil Division * * *." The letterhead later used by the prosecutor's office identified Manley as "Chief Counsel, Civil Division." The same title was attached to Manley's name in county audit documents, on an overtime-exemption form signed by Walsh, and in correspondence.

{¶ 6} Prior to 2003, an employee named John Quinn had management responsibility

31 N.E.3d 611

for the civil and tax divisions of the prosecutor's office and the child-support enforcement agency ("CSEA"). Quinn's title was "chief assistant county prosecutor," with a job code of 50031 and a working title of "chief counsel." In 2004, the official title for the 50031 position changed from chief assistant county prosecutor to chief counsel. The duties of the position remained the same.

{¶ 7} Summit County defined the job responsibilities of the chief-counsel position (Code 50031) as follows:

Under administrative direction; plans, assigns, directs, and manages a division of the Prosecutor's Office; formulates policy and procedure; evaluates, assigns, prepares, and presents cases in court; prepares legal documentation; acts on behalf of the Prosecutor; maintains a working knowledge of the law.

Manley alleged that the duties he actually performed matched this description: he planned, directed, and managed the work of a division of the office, reviewed

142 Ohio St.3d 386

and assigned cases to subordinates, and presented legal argument before courts and administrative agencies.

{¶ 8} When Quinn resigned in January 2003 to become a domestic-relations judge, Walsh decided to divide Quinn's duties among multiple employees. She promoted Manley to manage the civil division and Sandy Rubino to manage the tax division. But neither Manley nor Rubino had any responsibilities for the CSEA. Despite Walsh's interoffice memo informing Manley that his "classification [was] changed from Assistant Prosecuting Attorney 3 * * * to Chief Counsel/Civil Division," the county maintains that Manley kept his current pay grade, his job code of 50021, and his official title of assistant county prosecutor 3.

{¶ 9} Job code 50031 described the job's responsibilities as managing a division of the prosecutor's office. By contrast, job code 50021 included management responsibilities for a unit of the prosecutor's office. The documents in the record do not define the difference between a "unit" and a "division" of the office.

{¶ 10} As of 2003, the Summit County Council had set an annual pay scale for the position of chief counsel ranging from a minimum of $84,872 to a maximum of $106,090. However, when Manley was appointed chief counsel of the civil division, his salary was set at $73,730 annually, well below the minimum set by law for job code 50031. Manley's salary fell above the midpoint of the established salary range for job code 50021. In his complaint, Manley alleged that he should have received an increase in salary to at least the minimum for the chief-counsel position, but he also alleged that comparable employees in the prosecutor's office were compensated with salaries at the midpoint in the applicable salary ranges.

{¶ 11} Summit County employees received pay increases of 3 percent in 2004, 2 percent in 2005, 3 percent in 2006, 3 percent in 2007, and 3 percent in 2008. But because his base salary was allegedly set too low, Manley claims that he did not receive the full benefit of those pay increases. In addition, he claims that he lost the full benefit of the county's 14 percent contribution on his behalf to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

{¶ 12} Manley calculated that the county owed him $73,180.82 in back pay, $22,869.94 in statutory prejudgment interest, and $10,245.31 in lost retirement contributions.

31 N.E.3d 612

The motions for summary judgment

{¶ 13} Manley's argument for summary judgment was straightforward: the county held him out as "Chief Counsel, Civil Division," and he performed the duties of that position. Therefore, the county had a clear legal obligation under the Summit County Codified Ordinances to pay him accordingly. Essentially, Manley claims a clear legal right to be paid in accordance with the pay scale applicable to job code 50031, at a minimum annual salary of $84,872.

142 Ohio St.3d 387

{¶ 14} The county's motion presented two arguments. First, the county asserted that Manley could not demonstrate a clear right to relief because he was at all times officially a 50021 assistant county prosecutor 3, and the office used "chief counsel" in relation to him only as a "working title." Second, the county argued that laches barred Manley's claim. By his own admission, Manley knew of the alleged salary disparity in early 2003, yet he did not file suit until seven years later, in 2010.

The court of appeals' decision

{¶ 15} The Ninth District granted the county's motion for summary judgment, but did not adopt the county's legal arguments or version of the facts. Rather, the court granted judgment because it concluded that Manley was improperly using mandamus to establish the county's duty rather than to compel the enforcement of an established duty. That is, Manley was asking the court to create a duty from disputed facts and then enforce it. Thus, the court held that Manley failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence a clear legal right to be paid in accordance with his prayer for relief.

Legal analysis

Oral argument

{¶ 16} Manley has filed a request for the court to conduct oral argument. Oral argument in a direct appeal is discretionary. S.Ct.Prac.R. 17.02(A). In exercising this discretion, we consider whether the case involves a matter of great public importance, complex issues of law or fact, a substantial constitutional issue, or a conflict among the courts of appeals. Appenzeller v. Miller, 136 Ohio St.3d 378, 2013-Ohio-3719, 996 N.E.2d 919, ¶ 4 (and cases cited therein). Because Manley does not allege any such matters, we deny his request for oral argument and proceed to the merits of the appeal.


{¶ 17} Because the Ninth District granted summary judgment, this court reviews the decision de novo, notwithstanding the general rule that the standard of review in a mandamus case is abuse of discretion. State ex rel. Anderson v. Vermilion, 134 Ohio St.3d 120, 2012-Ohio-5320, 980 N.E.2d 975, ¶ 8–9.

{¶ 18} Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy "to be issued with great caution and discretion and only when the way is clear." State ex rel. Taylor v. Glasser, 50 Ohio St.2d 165, 166, 364 N.E.2d 1 (1977), citing State ex rel. Kriss v. Richards, 102 Ohio St. 455, 132 N.E. 23 (1921), and State ex rel. Skinner Engine Co. v. Kouri, 136...

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