The State Ex Rel. Stewart v. Clinton County Bd. Of Elections, 2010-0434.

Decision Date24 March 2010
Docket NumberNo. 2010-0434.,2010-0434.
Citation925 N.E.2d 601,2010 -Ohio- 1176,124 Ohio St.3d 584
PartiesThe STATE ex rel. STEWARTv.CLINTON COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS et al.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

124 Ohio St.3d 584
925 N.E.2d 601
2010 -Ohio- 1176

The STATE ex rel. STEWART
v.
CLINTON COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS et al.

No. 2010-0434.

Supreme Court of Ohio.

Submitted March 22, 2010.
Decided March 24, 2010.


925 N.E.2d 602

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

925 N.E.2d 603
McTigue & McGinnis, L.L.C., Donald J. McTigue, Mark A. McGinnis, Columbus, and J. Corey Colombo, for relator.

Richard W. Moyer, Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Andrew McCoy, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for respondent.

Chester, Willcox & Saxbe, L.L.P., Donald C. Brey, Elizabeth J. Watters, and Deborah A. Scott, Columbus, for intervening respondent.

Michael O. Eshleman, urging denial of the writs for amicus curiae, Robert E. Waters.

PER CURIAM.

{¶ 1} This is an expedited election action for writs of mandamus and prohibition to prevent respondents, the Clinton County Board of Elections and its members, from placing Patrick Haley's name on the ballot as a candidate for the office of Clinton County commissioner at the May 4, 2010 Republican Party primary election. We dismiss the mandamus claim for lack of jurisdiction. In addition, we deny the writ of prohibition because the board of elections and its members neither abused their discretion nor clearly disregarded R.C. 3513.07 by placing Haley's name on the ballot.

Facts

{¶ 2} On February 5, 2010, Patrick Haley filed his declaration of candidacy and petition for the Republican Party nomination at the May 4, 2010 primary election for the office of Clinton County commissioner. Haley's petition consisted of six part-petitions on forms prescribed by the secretary of state of Ohio, with blanks to be completed by the candidate. See R.C. 3513.07. Haley completed the declaration of candidacy on the part-petitions, which was entitled in bold capital letters as “Declaration of Candidacy Party Primary Election,” as follows:

{¶ 3} “I, Patrick Haley, the undersigned, hereby declare under penalty of election falsification that my voting residence is 185 Woods Edge Court, Wilmington, Ohio 45177, and I am a qualified elector.

{¶ 4} “I hereby declare that I desire to be a candidate for nomination to the office of County Commissioner as a member of the Republican Party for the: (check one box and fill in the appropriate date) [/] full term commencing 1-1-11, or [ ] unexpired term ending - , at the primary election to be held on the - day of - , - .

{¶ 5} “I further declare that, if elected to this office or position, I will qualify therefor, and I will support and abide by the principles enunciated by the Republican Party.

{¶ 6} “Dated this 25th day of January, 2010.”

{¶ 7} Relator, Dave Stewart, is a Clinton County resident and a registered Republican. On February 22, Stewart filed a protest pursuant to R.C. 3513.05 challenging Haley's petition. Stewart claimed that the petition had left blank the May 4, 2010 primary election date that the form requested. Haley had instead placed dashes in the blanks for the primary election date.

{¶ 8} On March 5, respondent Clinton County Board of Elections held a hearing on Stewart's protest. Haley testified that

925 N.E.2d 604
he had left the primary election date blank on the declaration of candidacy part of the petition based on the advice of the deputy director of the board of elections. Haley further testified that for the five part-petitions he circulated, he told everyone who signed the petition the date of the primary election. At the conclusion of the hearing, the board unanimously found that Haley had substantially complied with the applicable law and denied the protest.

{¶ 9} Three days later, Stewart filed this expedited action for writs of mandamus and/or prohibition to prevent the respondents from placing Haley's name on the May 4, 2010 primary ballot. Respondents filed an answer, and we granted Haley's motion to intervene as an additional respondent. The parties submitted evidence and briefs pursuant to the expedited schedule for election cases in S.Ct.Prac.R. 10.9.

{¶ 10} This cause is now before the court for its consideration of the merits.

Legal Analysis
Mandamus

{¶ 11} Stewart initially requests a writ of mandamus to compel respondents to sustain his protest and to prevent them from submitting Haley's candidacy to the electorate at the May 4, 2010 primary election.

{¶ 12} “It is axiomatic that ‘if the allegations of a complaint for a writ of mandamus indicate that the real objects sought are a declaratory judgment and a prohibitory injunction, the complaint does not state a cause of action in mandamus and must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.’ ” State ex rel. Obojski v. Perciak, 113 Ohio St.3d 486, 2007-Ohio-2453, 866 N.E.2d 1070, ¶ 13, quoting State ex rel. Grendell v. Davidson (1999), 86 Ohio St.3d 629, 634, 716 N.E.2d 704. “We have applied this jurisdictional rule to expedited election cases by examining the complaint to determine whether it actually seeks to prevent, rather than compel, official action.” State ex rel. Evans v. Blackwell, 111 Ohio St.3d 437, 2006-Ohio-5439, 857 N.E.2d 88, ¶ 20.

{¶ 13} Although some of the allegations or requests contained in Stewart's complaint are couched in terms of compelling affirmative duties, he actually seeks (1) a declaratory judgment that the board's denial of his protest was erroneous and (2) a prohibitory injunction preventing Haley from appearing on the primary election ballot. The relief sought by Stewart is comparable to the relief sought by relators in other election cases in which we held that we lacked jurisdiction over mandamus claims to remove candidates' names from the ballot. See generally State ex rel. Reese v. Cuyahoga Cty. Bd. of Elections, 115 Ohio St.3d 126, 2007-Ohio-4588, 873 N.E.2d 1251, ¶ 14, and cases cited therein.

{¶ 14} Therefore, because Stewart actually requests relief in the nature of a declaratory judgment and prohibitory injunction, we lack jurisdiction to consider the merits of his mandamus claim, and we dismiss it. Id. at ¶ 15.

Prohibition

{¶ 15} Stewart also requests a writ of prohibition to prevent the board of elections and its members from placing Haley's name on the May 4, 2010 primary election ballot. To be entitled to the writ, Stewart must establish that (1) respondents are about to exercise quasi-judicial power, (2) the exercise of that power is unauthorized by law, and (3) denying the writ will result in injury for which no adequate remedy exists in the ordinary course of law. State ex rel. Miller Diversified Holdings, L.L.C. v. Wood Cty. Bd. of Elections, 123 Ohio St.3d 260, 2009-Ohio-4980, 915 N.E.2d 1187, ¶ 14.

925 N.E.2d 605

{¶ 16} Stewart has met the first criterion because R.C. 3501.39(A)(1) and 3513.05 require that the board of elections conduct a quasi-judicial hearing on his protest. “[A] board of elections * * * is a quasi-judicial body when it considers protests.” State ex rel. Cooker Restaurant Corp. v. Montgomery Cty. Bd. of Elections (1997), 80 Ohio St.3d 302, 306, 686 N.E.2d 238. “[E]ven if the board [has] already exercised its quasi-judicial power by denying [the] protest, relief in prohibition is still available to prevent the placement of names or issues on a ballot, as long as the election has not yet been held.” Tatman v. Fairfield Cty. Bd. of Elections, 102 Ohio St.3d 425, 2004-Ohio-3701, 811 N.E.2d 1130, ¶ 14.

{¶ 17} Stewart also established the third requirement for the writ-the lack of an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law-because the election was imminent at the time the board denied his protest and when he filed this writ action. See State ex rel. Finkbeiner v. Lucas Cty. Bd. of Elections, 122 Ohio St.3d 462, 2009-Ohio-3657, 912 N.E.2d 573, ¶ 18.

{¶ 18} For the remaining prohibition requirement that the board's exercise of its quasi-judicial power is unauthorized by law, “we must determine whether the board [of elections] acted fraudulently or corruptly, abused its discretion, or clearly disregarded applicable...

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