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Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Parents Fight for Juvenile Court Resolutions within 90 Days

Image of a wooden judge's courtroom bench with a wooden gavel sitting on the bench

Two Richland County mothers argue a juvenile court broke the law by taking too long to complete cases about their children’s well-being.

Image of a wooden judge's courtroom bench with a wooden gavel sitting on the bench

Two Richland County mothers argue a juvenile court broke the law by taking too long to complete cases about their children’s well-being.

Two mothers argue that a juvenile court violated a state law requiring the court to conduct certain hearings within 90 days after a children services agency files a complaint. The mothers state that the cases involving their children must be dismissed because the court didn’t adhere to the timeframe. The Ohio Supreme Court will consider the issue during oral arguments next week in Columbus.

Mother of Two Investigated by Children Services
Richland County Children Services filed complaints in Richland County Juvenile Court against the parents of two children, both identified as K.M., in April 2017. The complaints alleged physical abuse, lack of medical care, and school tardiness.

The juvenile court found the children were “dependent” under R.C. 2151.04. The magistrate asked the parents and the children services agency if they wanted a separate hearing to resolve the case, and they said no. However, the magistrate said he needed more information before ruling and scheduled a “dispositional hearing,” where the court would decide what action to take, for Aug. 4, 2017.

The mother, R.H., maintained that R.C. 2151.35(B)(1) required the court to conduct the dispositional hearing within 90 days after the complaints were filed, but her hearing was held 107 days after the filings. The juvenile court and the Fifth District Court of Appeals rejected her argument, and her children were placed in the care of a grandmother.

Children Services Concerned about Abuse in Home with Six Children
In a separate set of cases, six children lived in 2017 with B.S., who is their mother, and her boyfriend. Richland County Children Services had concerns about possible physical abuse of the children by the boyfriend and filed complaints in juvenile court in May.

The mother agreed to a safety plan but, about a week later, took the children to Kentucky to live. She later surrendered the children and returned to Richland County. The juvenile court found all six children were “dependent” and two were abused.

The court held dispositional hearings in November 2017, January 2018, and March 2018 and completed the cases in April 2018 – 339 days after the complaints were filed. B.S.’s children remained in a grandmother’s custody. On appeal, the Fifth District upheld the juvenile court’s decisions and rejected B.S.’s claim that the hearings were conducted well after the 90-day deadline.

Mothers Point to Law Requiring 90-Day Resolution of Cases
Each mother appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, and the same attorney is representing R.H. in In re K.M. and In re K.M. and B.S. in In re D.T., In re M.T., In re R.T., In re J.T., In re S.K., and In re T.K.

Part of R.C. 2151.35(B)(1) states, “The dispositional hearing shall not be held more than ninety days after the date on which the complaint in the case was filed.”

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that statutes setting timeframes for performing an official duty are directory rather than mandatory. However, R.H. and B.S. note, the Court also has concluded that a timeframe becomes mandatory if it’s a limitation on the power of the office. The mothers contend that R.C. 2151.35(B)(1) places a limit on the juvenile court’s power, so the law requires dismissal of a case when the dispositional hearing isn’t held within 90 days after a complaint is filed.

Agency Argues 90-Day Timeframe Is Direction, Not Mandate
In the agency’s view, the statute is directory only. The law is intended to expedite cases involving children, but doesn’t affect the juvenile court’s authority when the 90-day timeframe isn’t met, the agency argues. It maintains that to rule otherwise would return a child to a possibly dangerous home situation and delay the resolution of issues involving children even longer. Juvenile courts must have the discretion to balance the best interests of a child against the parent’s due process rights, the agency concludes.

Oral Argument Details
On Dec. 10, the Supreme Court will consider three appeals and a disciplinary case. The Court will hear the seven appeals from juvenile court, described above, on Dec. 11 as well as two other cases. Oral arguments begin 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.

In addition to these brief highlights, the Court’s Office of Public Information today released preview articles about each case, available through the case-name links.

Tuesday, Dec. 10
A Cuyahoga County juvenile was 17 years old when he was charged with the sexual assault of another minor. Because of delays, he didn’t appear for a probable cause hearing in juvenile court until he was 20, where he agreed to a serious youthful offender specification, which placed him in juvenile detention until he was 21. He faced the possibility of spending three years in adult prison if he failed to comply with court orders. The judge “put in place” sexual offender treatment for the juvenile while in a youth facility. In In re A.W., a minor child, the juvenile didn’t complete the treatment before turning 21 and was sent to prison for two years. The man argues that he was never “ordered” to complete treatment, and that the juvenile court violated his due process rights by imposing the prison term.

A Montgomery County man agreed to plead guilty in 2017 to one count of kidnapping and one count of gross sexual imposition. As part of his sentence, he was ordered to pay $130 court-appointed counsel fees. The man challenged the fee, and an appeals court ruled that when imposing court-appointed counsel fees, the trial court had to make an explicit finding that the offender has, or reasonably could be expected to have, the means to pay some of the costs of his legal representation. The appeals court’s opinion in State v. Taylor is in conflict with a ruling from another appeals court, and the Supreme Court agreed to consider the sentence and the conflict.

A suspended Columbus attorney may face another suspension for statements she made about a real estate purchase she handled for her stepmother. The Board of Professional Conduct recommends a fully stayed one-year suspension in Disciplinary Counsel v. Corner. The investigating office maintains that another charge – the attorney’s failure to report her employment with an attorney while suspended – shouldn’t have been dismissed and that an actual suspension is warranted.  

A group of individuals were indicted for murder and conspiracy after a Euclid man, who had been setting up drug buys to assist the police, was shot and killed in November 2015. One of the defendants argues in State v. McFarland that the evidence doesn’t support her conviction for conspiracy. She contends she didn’t solicit anyone to murder the man, didn’t help the shooter obtain the gun, didn’t threaten the informant, and wasn’t at the murder scene. The prosecutor counters that her boyfriend wanted the informant killed, she facilitated phone conversations between her boyfriend and the shooter, and her actions set events in motion that led to the murder.

Wednesday, Dec. 11
Three men formed a general partnership, which purchased a commercial/industrial building in Chardon and granted a 35-year lease in the 1990s to a cellular telephone company to construct and operate a tower on land behind the building. The partnership broke up and sold the building to two machine shop owners. Shortly after, two partners sold their share of the partnership to the general partner and his wife in exchange for allowing the couple to collect the cell tower lease fees. After the machine shop owners sold the building, the new owner realized in 2013 the cell tower was part of the property and attempted to collect the lease payments. The couple and the new property owner each filed lawsuits to claim the right to collect the rental payments. In LRC Realty v. Bird, the Court will determine if the lack of a specific reservation of rights to collect the payments in the lease terminates the couple’s rights to payment, or if notations in the deed pointing to an agreement are sufficient for the couple to retain the right.

A Cuyahoga County man and two other men attempted to set an acquaintance’s home on fire. He agreed to plead guilty to aggravated arson and other charges. The trial judge asked if he understood his rights, such has having a right to go to trial and knowing that the burden is on the prosecution to prove the charges against them. The man said he understood, and he was sentenced to an eight-year prison term. The man appealed his conviction, arguing that under court rules for criminal cases, the trial court was required to explain to him that he was waiving his constitutional rights by pleading guilty. In State v. Miller, the Court will consider if a judge must strictly comply with the criminal rule, or if substantial compliance is enough to avoid vacating the man’s sentence.

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