Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Supreme Court to Consider Two Mineral Rights Cases from Eastern Ohio

Seven Cases Are on Court’s Agenda for August 19 and 20

Image of natural gas drilling equipment

The Supreme Court’s cases this month involve the death penalty appeal of a Cincinnati man, requirements for civil stalking orders, and when asset transfers reduce Medicaid benefits.

Image of natural gas drilling equipment

The Supreme Court’s cases this month involve the death penalty appeal of a Cincinnati man, requirements for civil stalking orders, and when asset transfers reduce Medicaid benefits.

The Supreme Court of Ohio will hear arguments in two cases next week about natural gas and oil drilling rights on properties in Harrison County.

Both cases involve the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act, which governs when the mineral rights beneath a piece of property are returned to those who own the land.

If the surface land and the natural resources underneath are owned separately, the law deems the mineral interests to be abandoned under certain circumstances. Current law requires the landowner to notify the mineral rights holder of its intent before retaking ownership of the resources. The mineral rights are not abandoned if certain events have taken place during the 20 years before the required notification.

In Dodd v. Croskey, Phillip Dodd and Julie Bologna bought about 128 acres in Harrison County, but the deed excluded the rights to the minerals below the land. When an oil and gas company approached them about purchasing the rights, the couple took steps to show that the holders of those rights had abandoned them. However, heirs to the rights responded asserting ownership.

Dodd and Bologna claim that the heirs did not identify an event during the prior 20 years that would have allowed them to maintain ownership.

The heirs counter that they didn’t need to point to a “savings event,” because they instead met the requirements of a different section of the law for filing a claim to preserve their interests.

The second case, Chesapeake Exploration v. Buell, was submitted to the Supreme Court from a federal district court. The federal court noted that the case involves issues of state law that Ohio’s highest court hasn’t addressed before.

The case involves a 90-acre parcel, also in Harrison County. North American Coal Royalty Company owns the minerals rights, and Chesapeake and two other companies lease those rights. The parties argue that a lease made in the mid-1980s is a type of title transaction, which they claim restarts the 20-year clock under the law. They also contend that the expiration of the lease in 1989 was also a title transaction, activating a new 20-year timeframe that preserves their rights.

The court will hear three cases, including a death penalty appeal, on Tuesday, August 19. Along with Dodd and Chesapeake, the court will consider two other appeals on Wednesday, August 20. The court’s sessions begin at 9 a.m. each day at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. The arguments will be streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live on The Ohio Channel.

Along with the brief descriptions below, the Office of Public Information today released summaries of the seven cases.

Cases for Tuesday, August 19
The court will consider these cases during Tuesday’s session:

  • A Cincinnati man was convicted of and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a girlfriend and the murder of two children in Pickens v. State.  He argues that the prosecutor wrongly made mention of his young adult age while questioning potential jurors about whether they could impose the death penalty. He also contends that the prosecution did not give race-neutral reasons for dismissing three African-American jurors, failed to disclose evidence, and engaged in misconduct during opening and closing statements.
  • Two men robbed houses in and near Clark County during a three-month period in late 2010 and early 2011. In State v. Beverly, the state asks the court to uphold the conviction of one of the men for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. To prove that an “enterprise” existed, the law does not require the enterprise to have a structure separate and distinct from the criminal activity, the state asserts.
  • In State v. Ruff, a man was convicted in Hamilton County of three rapes and aggravated burglaries, as well as attempted rape and sexual battery of a minor. He maintains that the sentences for rape and aggravated burglary should have been merged because they are “allied offenses of similar import.” The state counters that rape is a crime against a person, while burglary is a property crime, so the offenses are not part of the same conduct, and the sentences should not be merged.

Cases for Wednesday, August 20
The court will hear arguments in Dodd, Chesapeake, and two other cases during Wednesday’s session:

  • An Ottawa County property dispute in Simon v. Fondessy led a court to issue a civil stalking protection order. The question before the court is whether the stalking statute requires a victim to experience mental distress or only to believe that the offender will cause mental distress. The order was issued against a neighbor, who argues that actual mental distress must be shown before a court can grant a protection order.
  • Estate of Atkinson v. Ohio Department of Job and Family Services centers on Medicaid benefits for individuals in nursing homes who transfer assets. A Knox County couple had their house in a trust, then transferred it to the husband after the wife entered a nursing home and applied for Medicaid. The estate claims that federal law allows unlimited transfers of assets up until Medicaid eligibility is decided, while the state agency argues that limits apply starting on the date a person is institutionalized.
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