State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., No. 2013–1809.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation142 Ohio St.3d 509,33 N.E.3d 30,2015 Ohio 1083
Docket NumberNo. 2013–1809.
Decision Date25 March 2015
Parties The STATE ex rel. QUOLKE, Appellee, v. STRONGSVILLE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., Appellants.

142 Ohio St.3d 509
33 N.E.3d 30
2015 Ohio 1083

The STATE ex rel. QUOLKE, Appellee,
v.
STRONGSVILLE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., Appellants.

No. 2013–1809.

Supreme Court of Ohio.

Submitted Aug. 19, 2014.
Decided March 25, 2015.


33 N.E.3d 31

Muskovitz & Lemmerbrock, L.L.C., Susannah Muskovitz, and William E. Froehlich, Cleveland, for appellee.

Pepple & Waggoner, Ltd., Christian M. Williams, Cleveland, and Jacqueline T. Walsh, for appellants.

The Gittes Law Group, Frederick M. Gittes, and Jeffrey P. Vardaro, Columbus, urging affirmance for amicus curiae Ohio Employment Lawyers Association.

Baker & Hostetler, L.L.P., and David L. Marburger, Cleveland, urging affirmance for amicus curiae Ohio Coalition for Open Government.

PER CURIAM.

142 Ohio St.3d 509

{¶ 1} This is an appeal of a judgment in an action seeking public records brought by appellee, David Quolke, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union, against appellants, Strongsville City School District Board of Education, its superintendent, the board president, and the board treasurer (collectively, "the board"). Quolke requested the release of the names and identification numbers of all teachers and substitute teachers ("replacement teachers") employed by the

142 Ohio St.3d 510

board during a teachers' strike. The board asserted that releasing the names of those teachers would violate their privacy and put them in danger from striking teachers and their supporters. The court of appeals found for Quolke and ordered the board to produce the names.

{¶ 2} The board has presented little evidence that there is any threat to the teachers' privacy or well-being now that the strike is over. We affirm.

Facts

{¶ 3} The board operates a preschool and ten elementary and secondary public schools in its district, serving over 6,200 students. The board employs approximately 385 teachers and other licensed personnel. The teachers are represented by the Strongsville Education Association ("SEA") for collective bargaining of the terms and conditions of employment. Quolke is the president of the Cleveland Teachers Union.

33 N.E.3d 32

The strike and associated incidents

{¶ 4} On February 21, 2013, SEA gave the board ten days' notice under R.C. 4117.14(D) that it would strike at 12:00 a.m. on Monday, March 4, 2013. On March 4, SEA commenced its labor strike.

{¶ 5} The day before the strike, the board began hiring temporary replacement teachers to take the place of the striking SEA teachers. The board used the city of Strongsville's council chambers to conduct background checks, collect paperwork, and otherwise process applications for employment of replacement teachers. On March 3, a crowd of 75 to 100 people outside the city-council building chanted, jeered, and cursed at the applicants as they entered and exited the building to apply for jobs. The crowd took pictures of applicants and screamed obscenities at one applicant who entered the building with her two small children.

{¶ 6} Many applicants were visibly shaking when they entered the building. Others were in tears and afraid to leave. Eventually, school administrators began leading applicants to their cars through a rear entrance with a police escort. Some applicants never returned. Several media outlets reported on the crowd's actions.

{¶ 7} During the strike, acts of harassment and intimidation aimed at the replacement teachers continued. Replacement teachers discovered notes left in classrooms containing offensive messages. Signs were distributed in neighborhoods where some replacement teachers lived identifying the teacher by name and disclosing his or her address. SEA posted a "wall of shame" on its website with the pictures of some replacement teachers; the posting was accompanied by derogatory and offensive comments. Picketers continued to harass and intimidate replacement teachers during the strike.

142 Ohio St.3d 511

{¶ 8} It was reported that a striking teacher was arrested by the Strongsville Police Department for reckless driving when he allegedly cut off a van transporting replacement teachers to work. The replacement teachers reported to the police that the other driver nearly caused a collision with the van. The replacement teachers described the incident as "harrowing" and "outrageous" and stated that they "feared the worst" and were "frightened."

{¶ 9} A replacement teacher reported to the police that she was driving home after work when a car pulled up next to her and the passenger yelled "scab" and threw an object at her windshield, breaking the glass.

{¶ 10} The strike ended April 28, 2013.

The public-records request

{¶ 11} On March 5, 2013, and again on March 20, 2013, attorneys Susannah Muskovitz and William Froehlich, at Quolke's direction, made public-records requests of the board. Specifically, they requested the names, home addresses, home-telephone numbers, cell-phone numbers, employee-identification numbers, and payroll information for all replacement teachers employed by the board from the date the strike began until the date of the request.

{¶ 12} On April 3, 2013, after the board indicated that it would respond but did not do so, Quolke sued in mandamus in the Eighth District Court of Appeals for the records.

{¶ 13} On April 4, 2013, before it had been served with the lawsuit, the board provided copies of some responsive records, but claimed that many of the requested records were not subject to disclosure. In particular, the board asserted that the names of the replacement teachers were not considered public records

33 N.E.3d 33

because of the threat of harm to those teachers.

{¶ 14} Quolke amended his complaint in the public-records case, eventually narrowing the question to whether the names of all teachers employed by the board between March 4, 2013, and the request were public records.

{¶ 15} The court of appeals determined first that Quolke had standing to sue, even though he had not personally made the public-records request but had done so through his counsel. The court also determined that the board was required to disclose the names of the replacement teachers because there was insufficient evidence regarding the threat of harm after the strike had ended on April 28, 2013. The court stated that it issued the writ "taking into consideration the facts and circumstances" as they existed at the time the opinion was rendered. 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 99733 (Aug. 21, 2013). The court specifically stated that it was not resolving "the issue whether the constitutional right of privacy and personal safety" could prohibit the release of the names during a strike. The

142 Ohio St.3d 512

court denied Quolke's request for statutory damages, but it ordered further evidence and briefing regarding attorney fees.

{¶ 16} On October 7, 2013, the court issued a final journal entry and opinion awarding Quolke $7,972.50 in attorney fees and costs. 2013-Ohio-4481, 2013 WL 5594445. The court of appeals rejected the argument that Quolke was not entitled to fees because he had failed to demonstrate that he was personally responsible for paying the fees.

{¶ 17} The board appealed and requests that this court reverse the judgment and hold that Quolke lacked standing to bring the action, that the names of the replacement teachers are not a public record, and that Quolke is not entitled to attorney fees.

Analysis

Public records

{¶ 18} "Mandamus is the appropriate remedy to compel compliance with R.C. 149.43, Ohio's Public Records Act." 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 ; R.C. 149.43(C)(1). Thus, mandamus is the appropriate remedy for Quolke to obtain access to a public record.

{¶ 19} Although "[w]e construe the Public Records Act liberally in favor of broad access and resolve any doubt in favor of disclosure of public records," State ex rel. Rocker v. Guernsey Cty. Sheriff's Office, 126 Ohio St.3d 224, 2010-Ohio-3288, 932 N.E.2d 327, ¶ 6, the relator must still establish entitlement to the requested extraordinary relief by clear and convincing evidence, State ex rel. Doner v. Zody, 130 Ohio St.3d 446, 2011-Ohio-6117, 958 N.E.2d 1235, paragraph three of the syllabus.

{¶ 20} To be entitled to a writ of mandamus, Quolke must establish a clear legal right to the requested relief and a clear legal duty on the part of the board to provide it. State ex rel. Am. Civ. Liberties Union of Ohio, Inc. v. Cuyahoga Cty. Bd. of Commrs ., 128 Ohio St.3d 256, 2011-Ohio-625, 943 N.E.2d 553, ¶ 22, citing State ex rel. Brown v. Lemmerman, 124 Ohio St.3d 296, 2010-Ohio-137, 921 N.E.2d 1049, ¶ 9.

Standing

{¶ 21} In its first proposition of law, the board argues, as it did below, that Quolke lacks standing to bring this case...

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14 practice notes
  • Narciso v. Powell Police Dep't, Case No. 2018-01195PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • October 22, 2018
    ...conduct a meaningful review of the department's activities. See State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 2015-Ohio-1083, 33 N.E.3d 30, ¶ 55. Therefore, following the redaction of exempt personally identifiable information from investigatory reco......
  • Welsh-Huggins v. Jefferson Cnty. Prosecutor's Office, No. 2019-1481
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • November 24, 2020
    ...compel compliance with R.C. 149.43, Ohio's Public Records Act. See State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City School Dist. Bd. of Edn. , 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 2015-Ohio-1083, 33 N.E.3d 30, ¶ 18, citing State ex rel. Physicians Commt. for Responsible Medicine v. Ohio State Univ. Bd. of Trustees......
  • Sengstock v. City of Twinsburg, 2021-00330PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • November 17, 2021
    ...would create a substantial risk of serious bodily harm or death); State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ, 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 2015-Ohio-1083, 33 N.E.3d 30, ¶ 27-28 (credible threats to physical safety of replacement teachers supported withholding their names during......
  • Requester v. Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, Case No. 2018-00793PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • January 28, 2019
    ...Ohio St.3d 92, 2015-Ohio-5056, 47 N.E.3d 124, ¶ 6-8, 24, 27-28, 30; State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 2015-Ohio-1083, 33 N.E.3d 30, ¶ 30; Gannett GP Media, Inc. v. Ohio Dept. of Pub. Safety, Ct. of Cl. No. 2017-00051-PQ, 2017-Ohio-4247, ¶......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Narciso v. Powell Police Dep't, Case No. 2018-01195PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • October 22, 2018
    ...conduct a meaningful review of the department's activities. See State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 2015-Ohio-1083, 33 N.E.3d 30, ¶ 55. Therefore, following the redaction of exempt personally identifiable information from investigatory reco......
  • Welsh-Huggins v. Jefferson Cnty. Prosecutor's Office, No. 2019-1481
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • November 24, 2020
    ...compel compliance with R.C. 149.43, Ohio's Public Records Act. See State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City School Dist. Bd. of Edn. , 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 2015-Ohio-1083, 33 N.E.3d 30, ¶ 18, citing State ex rel. Physicians Commt. for Responsible Medicine v. Ohio State Univ. Bd. of Trustees......
  • Sengstock v. City of Twinsburg, 2021-00330PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • November 17, 2021
    ...would create a substantial risk of serious bodily harm or death); State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ, 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 2015-Ohio-1083, 33 N.E.3d 30, ¶ 27-28 (credible threats to physical safety of replacement teachers supported withholding their names during......
  • Requester v. Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, Case No. 2018-00793PQ
    • United States
    • Court of Claims of Ohio
    • January 28, 2019
    ...Ohio St.3d 92, 2015-Ohio-5056, 47 N.E.3d 124, ¶ 6-8, 24, 27-28, 30; State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 2015-Ohio-1083, 33 N.E.3d 30, ¶ 30; Gannett GP Media, Inc. v. Ohio Dept. of Pub. Safety, Ct. of Cl. No. 2017-00051-PQ, 2017-Ohio-4247, ¶......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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