State ex rel. Suwalski v. Peeler

Citation155 N.E.3d 47,2020 Ohio 3233
Decision Date08 June 2020
Docket NumberNO. CA2019-05-053,CA2019-05-053
Parties STATE of Ohio EX REL., Jamie SUWALSKI, Relator, v. Judge Robert W. PEELER, Respondent.
CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)

Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, Elizabeth Well, 3976 North Hampton Drive, Powell, Ohio 43065, for relator.

Ohio Domestic Violence Network, Micaela Deming, P.O. Box 176, Bluffton, Ohio 45817, for relator.

Michael Greer, Government Services Center, 315 High Street, 11th Floor, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, for respondent.

Repper, Pagan, Cook, Ltd., Christopher J. Pagan, 1501 First Avenue, Middletown, Ohio 45044, for intervenor.



{¶ 1} This case involves a review of a petition for a writ of prohibition filed by relator, Jamie Suwalski. Suwalski filed her petition with this court on May 28, 2019. After being granted an extension, respondent, the Honorable Robert W. Peeler with the Warren County Court of Common Pleas, filed an answer to Suwalski's petition on August 14, 2019. On August 29, 2019, Suwalski's ex-husband, Roy Ewing, who this court permitted to intervene in this case on August 5, 2019, also filed an answer to Suwalski's petition.

{¶ 2} On December 9, 2019, the parties filed a joint stipulated statement of facts. Shortly thereafter, on December 13, 2019, Suwalski filed a brief in support of her petition. To this, Ewing filed a response brief on January 27, 2020 with Judge Peeler filing his own response brief on February 12, 2020. Suwalski then filed a reply brief on February 21, 2020. This case was originally scheduled to be submitted to the court following oral argument. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this matter was instead submitted to the court without oral argument on May 4, 2020.

{¶ 3} The matter now properly before this court, Suwalski seeks a writ of prohibition to prevent Judge Peeler from relieving Ewing of the federal firearms disability imposed upon him under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9). Pursuant to that statute, it is unlawful for any person "who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" to ship, transport, possess, or receive "any firearm or ammunition" in or affecting commerce.1 For the reasons outlined below, Suwalski's petition is hereby granted as Judge Peeler does not have the judicial power under Ohio law, specifically R.C. 2923.14, to relieve Ewing of the federal firearms disability imposed upon him under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9).2

Facts and Procedural History

{¶ 4} On April 7, 2017, Ewing was found guilty of domestic violence in violation of R.C. 2919.25(A), a first-degree misdemeanor. There is no dispute that Suwalski was the victim of this domestic violence incident. After being found guilty, Ewing was sentenced to serve 20 days in jail, with ten of those days suspended, placed on one year of nonreporting probation, and ordered to pay a fine. Ewing then appealed.

{¶ 5} In support of his appeal, Ewing argued that the trial court erred when it prohibited him from cross-examining Suwalski about an alleged "safecracking" incident. This, according to Ewing, would have revealed Suwalski's motive to lie in order to get him out of their house so that she could gain leverage over him in their upcoming divorce. Finding no merit to Ewing's claim, this court affirmed Ewing's conviction in State v. Ewing , 12th Dist. Warren Nos. CA2017-05-062 and CA2017-05-063, 2018-Ohio-451, 2018 WL 704299. The Ohio Supreme Court thereafter declined review. 06/06/2018 Case Announcements #2 , 2018-Ohio-2155, 152 Ohio St.3d 1491, 99 N.E.3d 426.

{¶ 6} On February 5, 2019, Ewing filed an application for relief from the federal firearms disability imposed upon him under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9).3 Ewing filed his application under R.C. 2923.14(A), which provides that "any person who is prohibited from acquiring, having, carrying, or using firearms may apply to the court of common pleas in the county in which the person resides for relief from such prohibition." Ewing supported his application by noting the fact that "his community-control terms were fully discharged; and he has not recidivated." Ewing also noted that he "is a retired police officer with training and experience with the responsible use and handling of a firearm." Therefore, because there was "ample evidence of rehabilitation" exhibited by his "upstanding behavior" following his conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence, Ewing requested "his firearm rights" be restored so that he could "resume his private security business and to engage in outdoor recreational sport of hunting with his friends and family."

{¶ 7} On April 23, 2019, Judge Peeler held a hearing on Ewing's application. Ewing testified at this hearing. As part of his testimony, Ewing claimed that the federal firearms disability imposed upon him under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9) had negatively impacted his private security business, his federal firearms license, as well as his ability to possess a firearm for personal protection. Suwalski did not testify at this hearing. Suwalski, however, did provide Judge Peeler with a statement noting her opposition to Ewing's application. Suwalski's statement also restated the facts underlying Ewing's misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. As this court stated in Ewing , the facts underlying Ewing's conviction are as follows:

On January 14, 2017, [Suwalski] called 9-1-1 after an argument with [Ewing] escalated and became physical. The responding police officers talked to [Ewing] and [Suwalski] separately. [Suwalski] was upset and her eyes were a little bit puffy and watery. [Suwalski] told one officer that [Ewing] grabbed her by the throat several times, grabbed her by the hair, and shoved her hard enough that she hit a back door, hit her head, and landed on the floor. The officer observed red marks on [Suwalski's] neck and found a lump of curly hair on the laundry room floor, just outside the office where the argument mostly took place.

Id. , 2018-Ohio-451 at ¶ 2.

{¶ 8} On April 29, 2019, Judge Peeler issued a decision granting Ewing's application. Judge Peeler issued his decision based on the language found in R.C. 2923.14(D). That statute provides that, upon hearing, an applicant who is prohibited from acquiring, having, carrying, or using firearms may be entitled to relief from that prohibition if all of the following apply:

(1) One of the following applies:
(a) If the disability is based upon an indictment, a conviction, or an adjudication, the applicant has been fully discharged from imprisonment, community control, post-release control, and parole, or, if the applicant is under indictment, has been released on bail or recognizance.
(b) If the disability is based upon a factor other than an indictment, a conviction, or an adjudication, that factor no longer is applicable to the applicant.
(2) The applicant has led a law-abiding life since discharge or release, and appears likely to continue to do so.
(3) The applicant is not otherwise prohibited by law from acquiring, having, or using firearms.

{¶ 9} Judge Peeler explained his decision to grant Ewing's application as follows:

The record in this case establishes that [Ewing] had no criminal record prior to the 2017 conviction[ ] and has led a law-abiding life since the 2017 conviction[ ]. [Ewing] has been fully discharged from his 2017 sentence of incarceration and nonreporting probation. No evidence was admitted at the hearing that [Ewing] had any probation infractions or acted inappropriately while on probation. There is nothing to indicate that [Ewing] would not continue to live a law-abiding life, whether his application is granted or not. Further, the State concedes [Ewing] is not otherwise prohibited by law from acquiring, having, or using a firearm.
While the victim of [Ewing's] past criminal conduct certainly has trepidations regarding [Ewing's] ability to possess firearms, the record reveals no evidence that [Ewing] is a risk to Ms. Suwalski or any other person. Ms. Suwalski admitted that she has not seen [Ewing] since their divorce was finalized approximately one year ago.
Suwalski's Standing to Petition this Court for a Writ of Prohibition

{¶ 10} Effective February 5, 2018, Article I, Section 10a of the Ohio Constitution, commonly referred to as Marsy's Law, expanded the rights afforded to crime victims like Suwalski. State v. Lee , 12th Dist. Warren, 2019-Ohio-4725, 149 N.E.3d 84, ¶ 12 ("Marsy's Law defines the term ‘victim’ as ‘a person against whom the criminal offense or delinquent act is committed or who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of the offense or act’ "); State v. Jones , 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-190039, 2020-Ohio-81, 2020 WL 224602, ¶ 9 ("on February 5, 2018, the amendment to Article I, Section 10a of the Ohio Constitution, known as Marsy's Law, became effective"); State ex rel. S.L. v. Rucker , 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-190248, 2020-Ohio-584, 2020 WL 864914, ¶ 3 ("Marsy's Law is an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that expands the rights afforded to victims of crimes").

{¶ 11} The expanded rights afforded to crime victims include those set forth in Article I, Section 10a(B), which states:

The victim, the attorney for the government upon request of the victim, or the victim's other lawful representative, in any proceeding involving the criminal offense or delinquent act against the victim or in which the victim's rights are implicated, may assert the rights enumerated in this section and any other right afforded to the victim by law. If the relief sought is denied, the victim or the victim's lawful representative may petition the court of appeals for the applicable district, which shall promptly consider and decide the petition.

{¶ 12} Thus, by its terms, Marsy's Law authorizes Suwalski to petition this court for a writ of prohibition under these circumstances. See Rucker ("[u]nder Marsy's Law, the victim also has the right to ‘petition’ a court of appeals if the victim's rights are ‘implicated’ in a criminal...

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2 cases
  • State ex rel. Suwalski v. Peeler
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • 18 Noviembre 2021
    ...that Judge Peeler lacked the judicial power to relieve Ewing of the federal firearms disability imposed by 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9). 2020-Ohio-3233, 155 N.E.3d 47, 24. {¶ 3} We agree that a writ of prohibition is warranted, but our rationale for that conclusion differs from that of the court of ......
  • Kincer v. State
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • 23 Mayo 2023
    ... ... statute ... [2] Bergman v. Caulk, 938 N.W.2d ... 248 (Minn. 2020); State ex rel N.W.2d ... 248 (Minn. 2020); State ex rel. Suwalski N.W.2d ... 248 (Minn. 2020); State ex rel. Suwalski v. Peeler ... ...

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