State v. Nicholas, Appellate Case No. 2020-CA-21

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtEPLEY, J.
Citation2021 Ohio 1669
PartiesSTATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee v. DONOVAN ASHER NICHOLAS Defendant-Appellant
Docket NumberAppellate Case No. 2020-CA-21
Decision Date14 May 2021

2021 Ohio 1669

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee

Appellate Case No. 2020-CA-21


May 14, 2021

Trial Court Case No. 2017-CR-299

(Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court)


JANE A. NAPIER, Atty. Reg. No. 0061426, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Champaign County Prosecutor's Office, Appellate Division, 200 North Main Street, Urbana, Ohio 43078 Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee

TIMOTHY B. HACKETT, Atty. Reg. No. 0093480 & PATRICK T. CLARK, Atty. Reg. No. 0094087, Office of the Ohio Public Defender, 50 East Broad Street, Suite 1400, Columbus, Ohio 43215 Attorneys for Defendant-Appellant


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{¶ 1} Defendant-Appellant Donovan Asher Nicholas appeals from a judgment of the Champaign County Court of Common Pleas, which concluded, in relevant part, that the clerk of courts had separated appointed counsel fees from court costs and, thus, our order for the trial court to direct the clerk of courts to do the same on remand was moot. For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment will be reversed, and the matter will be remanded for the trial court to direct the clerk of courts to remove the attorney fees from the cost bill.

I. Facts and Procedural History

{¶ 2} Nicholas was convicted of aggravated murder in 2018 and raised several assignments of error on appeal. State v. Nicholas, 2020-Ohio-3478, 155 N.E.3d 304 (2d Dist.), appeal allowed, 161 Ohio St.3d 1439, 2021-Ohio-375, 162 N.E.3d 822. Important to this matter, Nicholas argued that the trial court erred when it included $9,819 of appointed counsel fees in the cost bill issued in the case. We agreed, stating that the trial court "will be directed to order the clerk to remove the attorney fee amount from the cost bill." Id. at ¶ 167. In our judgment entry, we remanded the matter to the trial court for the purposes of "correcting the cost bill concerning appointed counsel fees" and clarifying other charges. Id. at ¶ 198.

{¶ 3} In the meantime, the Champaign County clerk of courts attempted to rectify the issue by adding an additional section to the cost bill delineating the counsel fees from court costs. A new section was also added to "CourtView" (the online docket) entitled "Financial Case Summary," which further demonstrated the difference between court costs and appointed counsel fees.

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{¶ 4} On July 7, 2020, the trial court filed a "JOURNAL ENTRY IN RESPONSE TO THE DECISION ISSUED BY THE SECOND DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS." (Capitalization sic.) In that entry, the court addressed the issue of counsel fees being co-mingled with other expenses in the cost bill. The court attached several exhibits. Court's Exhibit 1 was the itemized cost bill, still showing as a line item $9,819 in "appointed counsel fees and expenses." On the last page of the cost bill, however, there was a succinct breakdown of the balance for the case. The amount of "costs" was recorded as $14,073, "counsel fees" was listed as $9,819, "deposit" was noted as $25.41, the amount for "foreign law enforcement" was listed as $329.47, and "reparation rotary" was enumerated as $60. According to the document, the total balance for the case was $24,281.77.

{¶ 5} Court's Exhibit 2 was the "Financial Case Summary," promulgated by CourtView Justice Solutions. This document also showed the court "cost" as...

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