Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Fracking, Death Sentence, Abortion Rights Examined in One-Day Session

The Court will decide next week if oil companies doing only shallow drilling in Ohio have to give up their deep drilling rights for fracking.

The Court will decide next week if oil companies doing only shallow drilling in Ohio have to give up their deep drilling rights for fracking.

Three cases before the Ohio Supreme Court include the appeal of a man’s death sentence for using to draw men to rural Ohio and then kill them; whether a Cleveland abortion clinic has a right to challenge abortion restrictions placed in a state budget bill; and a claim that Ohio law recognizes a “horizontal forfeiture” in older oil and gas leases signed before the advent of “fracking.”

The Supreme Court will consider the cases next week during one day of oral arguments on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Do Deep Drilling Rights Expire?
Washington County landowners are disputing an oil and gas drilling rights lease signed in 1980 with two oil companies, Collins-McGregor Operating Co. and Winston Oil Co. The oil companies drilled a well on the premises in 1981 and have produced small amounts of oil and gas from a shallow formation known as the Gordon Sand. In 2015, the landowners filed a lawsuit seeking to terminate the oil companies’ lease for all their rights to drill at depths below the Gordon Sand, claiming the companies violated an “implied covenant” to further explore for oil.

In Alford v. Collins-McGregor Operating Co., the landowners explain the lease was signed long before the implementation of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, in southern Ohio, and the companies don’t have the expertise to drill deeper. They contend the company will not give up the rights because they want to assign them to another oil company and profit from the move.

The oil companies, backed by major oil and gas industry associations, maintain they are in compliance with the lease. They argue the landowners are seeking a “horizontal forfeiture,” which has been suggested and rejected in leading oil and gas producing states and by lower Ohio courts. The companies maintain they are in compliance with their lease terms and have rights from the “surface to the center of the earth.”

Death Sentence for One of Two Craigslist Killers Examined
Richard Beasley was accused in 2011 of using the classified advertising website to list a job on a farm in southeastern Ohio to lure interested candidates and kill them for their belongings. His case and the trial of his co-defendant, a minor named Brogran Rafferty, attracted national attention. Rafferty was convicted first, in 2012, and sentenced to life in prison. In March of the next year, a jury convicted Beasley for the murders of three men, the attempted murder of another man, and robbery, kidnapping, theft, identity fraud, and weapons offenses. He was sentenced to death.

In State v. Beasley, his appeal directly to the Supreme Court, Beasley argues he didn’t receive a fair trial because a “maelstrom” of pretrial publicity made it impossible to select an impartial jury in Summit County. Representing the state, the Attorney General’s Office maintains that Beasley never presented evidence to the trial court to support this claim, and his case isn’t a rare or extreme one that justifies moving the trial to another location.

Among several other arguments, Beasley also challenges testimony from several witnesses about what the victims and others said to them. Noting his constitutional right to confront witnesses against him, he describes this testimony as hearsay and argues none should have been admitted at trial. The state responds that all the statements qualified as exceptions to the hearsay rule and were properly allowed by the court.

Clinics Seeks Right to Sue for Abortion Law Changes
Gov. John Kasich’s office and several state agencies have appealed a ruling by the Eighth District Court of Appeals that granted standing, or the right to sue, to Preterm-Cleveland Inc., an abortion and sexual health care clinic, to challenge portions of the 2013-2014 state budget bill, which included new requirements for abortion clinics.

Preterm-Cleveland filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga County against the governor, several state agencies, and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor and are challenging four provisions of the budget bill, arguing the bill violates the “single-subject rule” of the Ohio Constitution. In Preterm-Cleveland Inc. v. Kasich, the most contentious provisions Preterm challenges are the ban on public hospitals from having a written transfer agreement with any facility that performs abortions, and the requirement that doctors try to detect a fetal heartbeat and, if successful, wait at least 24 hours before performing an abortion.

A Cuyahoga County trial court granted the state’s request to dismiss the case for a lack of standing, arguing that Preterm failed to demonstrate how it was injured by any of the provisions. The state maintained that Preterm has had a transfer agreement with a private hospital for more than a decade, and made no indication that was going to change. The state also asserts the fetal heartbeat provision applies to doctors, not clinics, and since the clinic has not named any doctors or patients as party to the lawsuit, the law doesn’t apply to Preterm and it’s not harmed by the law.

Case Previews Available
Along with these brief descriptions, the Office of Public Information today released in-depth previews of the central arguments in the cases.

Oral Arguments Scheduled
The Court’s session begins at 9 a.m. at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. All arguments are streamed live online at and broadcast live and archived on The Ohio Channel.