Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019

Rockies Express Pipeline LLC v Joseph W. Testa, tax commissioner of Ohio, Case no. 2018-0882
Ohio Board of Tax Appeals

State of Ohio v. Ramiro Ramirez, Case no. 2018-0900
Sixth District Court of Appeals (Lucas County)

State of Ohio v. Gregory S. Straley, Case no. 2018-1176
Fourth District Court of Appeals (Highland County)

State of Ohio v. Robert Buttery, Case no. 2018-0183
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

Must Interstate Gas Pipeline Pay State Tax for Transactions Occurring Wholly in Ohio?

Rockies Express Pipeline LLC v Joseph W. Testa, tax commissioner of Ohio, Case no. 2018-0882
Ohio Board of Tax Appeals


  • For the purpose of Ohio’s public utilities excise tax, is the transportation of natural gas entering an interstate pipeline in Ohio and delivered to a local distribution company or another interstate pipeline in Ohio exempt from the tax because the revenue is “wholly from interstate business”?
  • When natural gas is exchanged between interstate pipelines in Ohio, is there a substantial nexus between the gas transportation and the state that allows for state taxation of the pipeline company?

Prior to the rapid growth in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Ohio’s natural gas supply primarily flowed into the state from interstate pipelines bringing the gas from other regions of the country. Since 2011, large amounts of Ohio-produced natural gas have entered interstate pipelines for delivery to large industrial users and local distribution companies, which in turn deliver it to millions of residential and commercial users in Ohio. The state’s right to tax this “intrastate” distribution of Ohio-produced gas is disputed by a company called Rockies Express Pipeline.

With the intent of transporting gas from wells in Colorado and Wyoming to Ohio and East Coast markets, Rockies Express opened the Ohio portion of its interstate pipeline in 2009. The Ohio line begins in Clarington, in Monroe County on the state’s eastern border, and ends near Lebanon, in Warren County near the western border. In 2011, with a natural gas boom coming from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, the company invested $600 million in Ohio to make its pipelines multidirectional to take gas not only on its traditional west-to-east route, but also east to west.

In 2015, the Ohio Department of Taxation issued a $139,000 public utility excise tax assessment to Rockies Express based on about $2 million in receipts. The assessment was based on 36 transactions in which gas entered the pipeline in Ohio and was distributed to an end-user in the state.

Rockies Express challenged the tax, noting that 22 of those transactions were related to delivering gas from the Rockies Express pipeline to one of three other interstate pipelines: Columbia Gas Transmission, Texas Eastern Pipeline, or Texas Gas Transmission. Those transactions accounted for about $1.9 million, or 94%, of the total receipts that the department taxed. Because the state can’t determine where the gas went after it entered another interstate pipeline, Rockies Express argued the state can’t characterize the sales as an “intrastate” transaction and can’t base its taxes on the receipts. And because all 36 transactions include gas that entered the pipeline from both in- and out-of-state sources, all of its business was “wholly from interstate business,” which is exempted from the public utility excise tax, the company argued.

The Ohio tax commissioner (now Jeff McClain) rejected the company’s position and maintained the tax. The company sought a refund of its excise tax payment from the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA), which sided with the tax commissioner. The company appealed the BTA decision to the Tenth District Court of Appeals, then requested that the case be transferred to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

Company Is an Interstate Business, Not Subject to Excise Tax
Rockies Express explains that it’s classified in Ohio as a “pipeline company,” and it doesn’t own any local distribution systems nor the gas that it transports. The company notes that while a “natural gas company” pays property tax based on 25% of its true value, a pipeline company pays 88% of its true value. In 2015, Rockies Express paid $49 million in Ohio property taxes. The company states its pipeline is 1,712 miles long and passes through eight states and interconnects with 28 other interstate pipelines.

While pipeline companies are subject to Ohio’s excise tax, R.C. 5727.33(B)(1) exempts “all receipts derived wholly from interstate business.” Rockies Express maintains their exemption has existed in Ohio law since 1910 and applies to its operations. The company argues the tax commissioner doesn’t need to examine where the gas entered and exited the pipe to determine the application of the tax. Because all the gas is mingled in the pipeline from various states and delivered all across the country, the only question for tax purposes is whether Rockies Express’ activity was wholly from interstate business.

The company cites the Supreme Court’s 1991 American Steamship Co. v. Limbach decision to note that even the transportation of the Ohio-produced gas to another part of Ohio is “interstate business.” In American Steamship, the state proposed to tax the transportation of iron ore from Minnesota to Cleveland. The company shipped the ore to a port in Lorain to temporarily store then loaded it for a boat to Cleveland. The state attempted to tax the shipment based on the Lorain-to-Cleveland trip, which was wholly in Ohio. The Court ruled that once the ore left Minnesota, it remained interstate commerce until it reached its ultimate destination. Rockies Express argues that is the same circumstance as its gas transportation. The gas it transported to the other three interstate pipelines remains interstate commerce, it concludes.

The company also argues there is no “substantial nexus” that connects Rockies Express’ receipts for 94% of the activity that was taxed by the state. The company explains the transfer of gas taking place in Ohio is “happenstance of where the transport point is located, and has nothing to do with the origin, destination, ownership, or distribution of the gas in question.” Rockies Express explains that it and the other pipeline companies have interconnecting points just outside Ohio. If it thought the Ohio excise tax applied to its transactions, the company argues that it could have interconnected with the Columbia Gas or Texas Eastern or Texas Gas pipelines in Kentucky and Indiana. Under the tax commissioner’s interpretation of the law, those exchanges wouldn’t be subject to the tax.

“The application of a state tax on interstate commerce cannot depend upon which interstate route the goods take. Changing pipes in Lebanon along a continuous interstate journey does not create a ‘substantial nexus’ with Ohio,” the company’s brief states.

Pipeline Company’s Activity Taxable, Commissioner Asserts
The tax commissioner argues that Rockies Express is the only interstate pipeline company operating in Ohio that refused to pay the excise tax, and that the company is creating the false impression that the state is seeking to tax the interstate flow of natural gas. The commissioner asserts the company ignores legal developments over the past 50 years that allow the state to tax interstate business connected to a state, and that the activity it taxed the company for undertaking occurred fully within the state boundaries.

While Rockies Express maintains its transactions are “wholly from interstate business,” the commissioner claims that is untrue and, clearly, the part that was taxed was exclusively intrastate in nature. The commissioner also argues that the company is alleging the state is taxing the gas, while in reality the state excise tax is a “privilege-of-doing-business” tax, and the tax is imposed on the company’s business of transporting gas. That business is conducted through pipelines buried in the ground in Ohio and is conducted in the state, the commissioner asserts. The tax is assessed on the amount of business transacted through the pipelines and the state determined the fairest measure was to base the tax on the transportation of gas that started and ended in the state, the commissioner explains. The state argues it could have imposed the tax on a greater amount of the company’s receipts, including gas that was transported from another state and used in Ohio.

The commissioner also counters Rockies Express’ argument that the state lacks the substantial nexus to impose the tax by pointing out the company admits it paid nearly $95 million in state property taxes in 2014 and 2015, and that it collected more than $2 million in revenue in 2015 just from transactions that began and ended in the state. The commissioner also asserts the company is ignoring significant rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 (South Dakota v. Wayfair), and the Ohio Supreme Court’s 2016 Crutchfield Corp. v. Testa decision permitting states to charge interstate companies their “fair share” of state taxes.

- Dan Trevas

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Rockies Express Pipeline LLC: W. Stuart Dornette, 513.381.2838

Representing Jeff McClain, tax commissioner of Ohio, from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office: Benjamin Flowers, 614.995.9032

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Was Judge’s Grant of New Trial for Toledo Shooter Effectively an Acquittal?

State of Ohio v. Ramiro Ramirez, Case no. 2018-0900
Sixth District Court of Appeals (Lucas County)


  • In light of U.S. and Ohio Supreme Court precedent, does 33(A)(4) of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure allow a trial judge to render a “final verdict” in a case even though the rule covers the process of granting a new trial?
  • If the criminal rule is interpreted to be a final verdict, does the ruling prevent any appellate review of the trial court’s decision?
  • Must an appellate court reviewing a trial court’s grant of a new trial under Crim.R. 33(A)(4) make a finding of whether or not the evidence in the case established a conviction for a lesser-degree defense?

In April 2016, Ramiro Ramirez and two friends were eating pizza and standing by Ramirez’ car, which was parked in front of a bowling alley. Dale Delauter and his girlfriend arrived at Delauter’s home across the street from the bowling alley in Toledo. The couple, who were intoxicated, stood outside Delauter’s house arguing. Michael Lucas, one of Ramirez’ friends, observed the argument, then crossed the street. Lucas recorded the argument with the Snapchat application on his cell phone. The couple began arguing with Lucas, and Delauter called Lucas a racial slur. Delauter went into his house, and his girlfriend told Lucas that Delauter was going to get his shotgun. She told Lucas he should leave. Lucas walked back to Ramirez’ car. Ramirez, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, retrieved a pistol from his car and took cover behind the car.

There were conflicting versions of what happened next. Prosecutors state Delauter didn’t have a shotgun when he came back to the porch, while Ramirez said he did and that someone yelled for Delauter to put down the gun. Ramirez believed Delauter cocked the gun and aimed it at Ramirez’ car, and he believed Delauter fired a shot. Ramirez fired eight shots at Delauter, of which some hit Delauter, who retreated to his house and collapsed on his floor. The police were called, and Delauter was taken to the hospital where he died. Later, police found a shotgun near where Delauter collapsed, which was unloaded but pumped.

Ramirez was indicted for voluntary manslaughter. As the jury trial commenced, Ramirez moved for acquittal, citing Criminal Rule 29, but the trial judge denied the motion. The jury found Ramirez guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

Ramirez then moved for a new trial, citing several provisions of Criminal Rule 33. The trial court found that, under Crim.R. 33(A)(4), the state failed to prove the element of voluntary manslaughter that required Ramirez to act with “sudden passion or fit of rage,” and the court ordered a new trial.

Prosecutors Appeal Decision
Lucas County prosecutors appealed to the Sixth District Court of Appeals. The Sixth District ruled that the trial court judge found the state provided insufficient evidence to prove voluntary manslaughter, and that the judge’s verdict amounted to an acquittal. The Sixth District stated that an acquittal is a “final verdict” and that, under R.C. 2945.67, the state isn’t allowed to appeal the decision.

Lucas County prosecutors appealed the Sixth District’s decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

Rule Improperly Interpreted, Prosecutors Argue
The Lucas County prosecutors argue the Sixth District both failed to apply Crim.R. 33(A)(4) correctly, and didn’t take all the steps required of the court under the rule. Crim.R. 33 covers requests for a new trial and states that a new trial may be granted if a defendant’s substantial rights are materially affected. Subsection (A)(4) states: “That the verdict is not sustained by sufficient evidence or is contrary to law. If the evidence shows the defendant is not guilty of the degree of crime for which he was convicted, but guilty of a lesser degree thereof, or of a lesser crime included therein, the court may modify the verdict or finding accordingly, without granting or ordering a new trial, and shall pass sentence on such verdict or finding as modified.”

The prosecutors maintain that the Sixth District interpreted the rule to state that when a new trial is granted because the verdict is not sustained by the sufficiency of evidence, then a claim of double jeopardy arises. Because of the rule against double jeopardy, a new trial can’t actually take place, which in effect means that the trial court has granted a “final verdict,” which acquitted Ramirez. The Sixth District then determined the U.S. and Ohio constitutions prohibit double jeopardy and Ohio lawmakers have prevented prosecutors from appealing a final verdict by R.C. 2945.67, making the trial judge’s ruling final and ending any chance of prosecuting Ramirez.

The prosecutors argue the Sixth District’s interpretation contradicts the plain meaning of the rule, which states the process for granting a new trial not an acquittal. The prosecutors maintain Crim.R. 29 is the rule that allows a defendant to request acquittal and that Ramirez tried and failed to win a motion under that rule while in trial court. The prosecutors note that Ramirez didn’t try again to seek acquittal after the jury found him guilty and only asked for a new trial. The prosecutors maintain that the Sixth District transformed Crim.R. 33(A)(4) to be the same as Crim.R. 29, which would make no sense.

The prosecutors also argue that there is no double jeopardy issue because a new trial doesn’t necessarily have to take place even if a new trial is granted. On appeal, the Sixth District could have reinstated the jury’s original guilty verdict and there would be no double jeopardy violation. 

Even if the appellate court agreed with the trial judge that the evidence wasn’t sufficient to convict Ramirez of voluntary manslaughter, the prosecutors maintain the court needs to carry out the second sentence of the rule. That provision states if the evidence shows the defendant is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted, the appellate court may modify the verdict or finding without granting or ordering a new trial if it finds the evidence is sufficient to show the defendant is guilty of a lesser-degree crime or a lesser crime.

The prosecutor assert that there are at least four “lesser degree” crimes the trial court or Sixth District could have found Ramirez committed, including felonious assault, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, or negligent homicide. The prosecutors note that while the appellate court has the discretion to impose or modify the sentence, the Sixth District had a mandatory duty to make a finding to report whether it considered the lesser crimes. The prosecutors argue that failing to make the finding is an abuse of discretion and the Supreme Court should reverse the lower court’s ruling.

Rules Outdated in Wake of Court Decisions, Shooter Argues
Ramirez notes that Crim.R. 33 was adopted with other rules of criminal procedure in 1974 and hasn’t been revised or amended since. However, significant decisions by the U.S. and Ohio supreme courts regarding double jeopardy have been delivered in the years since, and that the prosecutors failed to recognize the precedent of those decisions, he notes. Ramirez urges the Ohio Supreme Court to clarify that in its present state, Crim.R. 33(A)(4) does amount to granting final verdicts that are unreviewable acquittals, and that the Court should consider updating the rule.

Ramirez agrees with the prosecutors that an appeal of post-verdict judgment for acquittal, such as that granted to Ramirez, doesn’t violate the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, the prosecutor’s ability to appeal is constrained by R.C. 2945.67(A). The state has made it clear that, in general, appeals by the state in criminal prosecutions are prohibited except for certain limited circumstances granted by state law. The law doesn’t allow for the appeal of a final verdict, and the trial court judge’s ruling amounted to a final verdict, he concludes.

Ramirez notes the courts have recognized the label a trial judge gives to a finding, whether called a “new trial” or something else, doesn’t matter, but what matters is the practical effect of that ruling. In his case, it amounted to a final verdict, and the Sixth District correctly analyzed that the prosecutors didn’t have the authority to appeal the decision, Ramirez maintains.

The prosecutors incorrectly interpret the criminal rule or state law to require the Sixth District to look at the record to determine if Ramirez could be charged with a lesser crime, he maintains. The rule states the review is discretionary and the Sixth District was under no obligation to report why it didn’t modify the verdict or find Ramirez could have been found guilty of a lesser crime, he concludes.

- Dan Trevas

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing the State of Ohio from the Lucas County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office: Brenda Majdalani, 419.213.2001

Representing Ramiro Ramirez from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office: Patrick Clark, 614.466.5394

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Can Convicted Man Withdraw Guilty Plea Because Court Stated that Sentences Weren’t Mandatory?

State of Ohio v. Gregory S. Straley, Case no. 2018-1176
Fourth District Court of Appeals (Highland County)


  • When a plea and a sentence are agreed to, is the defendant permitted to withdraw a guilty plea when the court told the defendant that no sentences were mandatory and it was later determined that certain offenses carried mandatory sentences?
  • Is the correct remedy for an improper sentence in these circumstances to remand the case for resentencing rather than to allow the withdrawal of the defendant’s guilty plea?

A grand jury in Highland County indicted Gregory Straley in September 2008 on 14 counts of various offenses – rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition, and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance. As part of a January 2009 plea deal, Straley, who was represented by a lawyer, agreed to plead guilty to eight of the counts, and the other counts were dismissed.

At a hearing in the Highland County Common Pleas Court about the plea, the judge told Straley that none of the sentences for the offenses were mandatory. The court sentenced him to 35 years and 10 months in prison.

Straley appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeals on several issues, including that the trial court imposed non-mandatory sentences for three of the offenses without notifying him that they were mandatory. The Fourth District upheld the trial court’s judgment and stated that the sentence wasn’t reviewable on appeal because Straley and the prosecutor had agreed to the sentence.

Defendant Asks to Withdraw Guilty Plea
In April 2017, Straley filed a motion in the trial court to withdraw his guilty plea. He argued that the trial court’s sentence for his three sexual battery convictions was void because the judge imposed a non-mandatory sentence when the law required a mandatory sentence for those offenses. The trial court denied the request.

Following another appeal, the Fourth District reversed the trial court’s decision, concluding that the sentence was void because it imposed non-mandatory, rather than mandatory, prison terms for certain offenses and also that the sentence was a manifest injustice requiring the guilty plea to be withdrawn.

The Highland County Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to consider the case.

Defendant Agreed to Sentence, Prosecutor Argues
The prosecutor maintains that because the sentence was agreed to, Straley knew when he pled guilty that he was going to prison and the length of the prison term. In exchange, the prosecutor notes, Straley avoided going to trial on six other charges. Even though the court didn’t inform Straley that part of his sentence was mandatory, no evidence indicates that he wouldn’t have entered into the deal had he been told the correct sentences, the office argues. 

Citing the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling in State v. Nero (1990), under the “totality of the circumstances,” Straley understood the implications of his plea and was given the benefit of not being sentenced on more serious offenses, the prosecutor states. The prosecutor contends that Straley can’t show that he suffered prejudice – that the case outcome would have been different if he had known that some of his pled-to offenses carried mandatory sentences.

Misinformation Meant Plea Wasn’t Knowing, Straley Contends
Straley counters that his plea wasn’t knowing, voluntary, and intelligent because the trial court didn’t inform him of the maximum penalty involved. He bases this argument on a court rule for criminal cases and State v. Bishop, a 2018 Ohio Supreme court decision. Bishop explained that when the maximum penalty notification in Rule 11 of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure isn’t followed, no proof of prejudice is needed, Straley states.

Noting that the “essential and encouraged” plea bargaining process depends upon fairness, Straley’s brief argues that the understanding between the parties that the prison terms for the sexual battery offenses weren’t mandatory must be given full effect. Because their agreement can’t be implemented without violating Ohio’s sentencing laws, the appropriate solution is to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea, he reasons.

Parties Debate Resentencing versus Guilty Plea Withdrawal
Despite the Fourth District’s ruling, the prosecutor argues, the proper remedy when a trial court doesn’t comply with mandatory sentencing laws is a resentencing hearing, not the withdrawal of a guilty plea. The office also maintains that the appeals court ignored res judicata by allowing Straley to withdraw his guilty plea nearly 10 years after he entered it.

Straley counters that when a court disregards statutes when imposing a sentence, the sentence is void and requires that the defendant be allowed to withdraw the guilty plea. Because this was the Fourth District’s determination as well, and that ruling follows Supreme Court precedent , the Court should dismiss the case as improvidently accepted, Straley concludes.

- Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing the State of Ohio from the Highland County Prosecutor’s Office: Anneka Collins, 937.393.1851

Representing Gregory S. Straley from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office: Peter Galyardt, 614.728.0171

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Can Violation of Terms of Juvenile Adjudication Be Used as Basis for Adult Offense?

State of Ohio v. Robert Buttery, Case no. 2018-0183
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

ISSUE: Does a juvenile adjudication satisfy the element of an offense committed as an adult?

In October 2011, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court found Robert Buttery delinquent on two counts of what would be gross sexual imposition if committed by an adult, and he was classified as a Tier I sex offender. Buttery was 14 years old at the time of his offenses. He and his mother signed a document in January 2012 that explained his duty to register as a juvenile sex offender annually for the next 10 years.

The court suspended his commitment to juvenile detention and placed him on probation. He was required to attend and complete a local program for youths with sexual behavior issues. Buttery finished the program in February 2013.

As Adult, Man Indicted for Failing to Register as Sex Offender
In November 2015, when Buttery was 19 years old, he was indicted in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court for failing to register earlier that year with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The indictment noted that the basis for his duty to register was the October 2011 juvenile adjudication for gross sexual imposition.

Buttery asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that he didn’t have a duty to register for several reasons. After the trial court rejected the motion, Buttery pled no contest. The court found him guilty and sentenced him in July 2016 to three years of community control.

He appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court’s ruling. During this appeal, the trial court separately found Buttery violated his community control and the court imposed an 18-month prison term.

Buttery filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court, which accepted for review the question whether juvenile adjudications can be used as the basis for adult offenses. The case initially was stayed for a decision in State v. Carnes (2018), but the Court lifted the stay after that decision and allowed this case to move forward.

Purpose of Juvenile System Is Rehabilitation, Buttery Argues
While state law declares that felony sentencing is designed to protect the public from future crime and to punish the offender, statutes about juvenile courts state that the purpose of juvenile dispositions is “to provide for the care, protection, and mental and physical development of children subject to this chapter, protect the public interest and safety, hold the offender accountable for the offender’s actions, restore the victim, and rehabilitate the offender,” Buttery explains. He notes that the rehabilitation of minors is a key purpose of Ohio’s juvenile courts, and these courts are civil, not criminal, courts. His brief adds that confidentiality in juvenile courts is intended to “allow[] the juvenile to move into adulthood without the baggage of youthful mistakes.”

The rehabilitative purpose of, and confidentiality within, juvenile courts are damaged when a juvenile adjudication for a sexually oriented offense forms the basis for a public conviction as an adult for failing to register with authorities as a sex offender, Buttery argues.

“Although the conduct, failing to register, may occur as an adult, the basis for the duty to register, the sexually oriented offense, occurred as a result of conduct committed as a juvenile,” his brief states. “Without this youthful conduct, there would be no event triggering the potential duty to register.”

Pointing to the extensive evidence demonstrating the differences between juveniles and adults, Buttery maintains that it is fundamentally unfair to equate this conduct by a child and the resulting adjudication with an adult conviction for a sexual offense. He contends that had the original offense been serious enough to warrant treatment as an adult, the prosecutor could’ve asked for the case to be transferred to adult court, but the prosecutor didn’t take that step.

Buttery Focuses on Lack of Right to Jury in Juvenile Proceedings
Buttery believes the rationale the Ohio Supreme Court detailed in State v. Hand (2016) should be extended to this case. In Hand, the Court determined that it is “fundamentally unfair to treat a juvenile adjudication as a previous conviction that enhances either the degree of or the sentence for” a later offense committed as an adult. While his case doesn’t involve a sentence enhancement, he asserts that this case is more consequential because it involves not the use of a juvenile adjudication to merely enhance a sentence, but instead as an element that forms the basis for an adult offense.

Citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Buttery states that the elements of an offense must be found by a jury. However, he notes, there is no right to a jury trial in juvenile court. Under R.C. 2950.04, which explains the duty to register for sex offenders, a juvenile adjudication is a basis for punishment, so it is an element that must be submitted to a jury, he argues.

“Because the adjudications for juveniles, such as Robert, do not encompass that jury right, elevating said adjudications to an element of an adult offense violates the constitutional protections under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” his brief states.

Although prior convictions are an exception to this requirement to submit elements of an offense to a jury, Hand explained that this exception doesn’t hold when the prior conviction wasn’t subject to a proceeding where the defendant had the right to a jury trial and where guilt had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Buttery maintains.

Law Equates Juvenile Registration Requirements with Adult Convictions, Buttery Maintains
In last year’s Carnes, the Ohio Supreme Court differentiated from the circumstances in Hand an illegal firearm conviction for an adult that was based on a juvenile adjudication. The Court in Carnes found that the weapons-under-disability law lists several possible reasons for a conviction, including certain juvenile adjudications, adult convictions, and other convictions not subject to a jury trial. In contrast, the Court stated, the statute in Hand impermissibly equated a juvenile adjudication with an adult conviction, Buttery notes.

In this case, R.C. 2950.04 states that only a conviction or an adjudication for a sexually oriented offense triggers the duty to register. Like the statute in Hand, Buttery argues, the duty-to-register law equates an adult conviction with a juvenile adjudication, making the law unconstitutional.

He concludes that “[a] juvenile adjudication should not follow a person into adulthood.”

State Argues Juvenile Registration Requirements Guarantee Fairness
First, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office asserts that Buttery waived his argument about the constitutionality of R.C. 2950.04 because he didn’t raise it at trial.

On the substance of Buttery’s positions, the office contends that In re D.S., a 2016 Ohio Supreme Court ruling, already determined that the registration and notification requirements in state law for juvenile sex offenders offers adequate due process procedural protections to ensure fundamental fairness. The prosecutor maintains that these procedural protections aren’t negated when a registration requirement for a juvenile sex offender forms the element of the offense for failure to register under R.C. 2950.04 when the youth becomes an adult.

The prosecutor notes that enactments of law by the legislature are presumed to be constitutional, and a constitutional violation must be demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt before a law can be found unconstitutional. The laws about juvenile sex offenders demonstrate fundamental fairness – and no due process violations – because the classification of minors by courts is discretionary and subject to reconsideration for multiple reasons, the prosecutor argues.

Law Allows Adjudication as One of Several Elements for Registration Offense, State Asserts
The office maintains that Buttery’s case is more similar to Carnes than to Hand. The Hand decision was narrow, applying to two statutes not at issue here, the prosecutor asserts. The office also contends that the weapons-under-disability law in Carnes and the failure-to-register law for sex offenders are similar because the General Assembly specifically included juvenile adjudications as a possible element of those offenses. The prosecutor argues that the sex-offender registration requirements, like the law prohibiting certain individuals from having weapons, falls within the legislature’s authority to protect the public.

Similar to the statute in Carnes, a juvenile adjudication for a sex offense carries consequences that may follow a youth into adulthood, the prosecutor submits. The office maintains that, unlike Hand, Buttery’s punishment for his registration violation wasn’t enhanced by his juvenile adjudication. Instead, an adjudication is simply the basis of the duties and violations in R.C. Chapter 2950, the prosecutor argues.

Organizations Argue Consequences Shouldn’t Travel into Adulthood
The Ohio Public Defender’s Office and the Children’s Law Center have filed a joint amicus curiae brief supporting Buttery. Their brief notes that the state has historically protected children processed through the juvenile justice system from adult consequences so that they can become productive members of society as adults. However, the organizations argue, Ohio’s sex-offender registration laws “eviscerate” these safeguards and continue to punish youths for bad acts committed as juveniles. Referencing the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling In re C.P. (2012), they maintain that the registration requirements hamper a juvenile’s future education, relationships, and careers, and crush a juvenile’s potential.

- Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Robert Buttery from the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office: Julie Kahrs Nessler, 513.946.8256

Representing the State of Ohio from the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office: Paula Adams, 513.946.3228

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These informal previews are prepared by the Supreme Court's Office of Public Information to provide the news media and other interested persons with a brief overview of the legal issues and arguments advanced by the parties in upcoming cases scheduled for oral argument. The previews are not part of the case record, and are not considered by the Court during its deliberations.

Parties interested in receiving additional information are encouraged to review the case file available in the Supreme Court Clerk's Office (614.387.9530), or to contact counsel of record.