State of Ohio ex rel. New Prospect Baptist Church v. Honorable Robert Ruehlman
Case Dates:Thursday, 18 October, 2018 - ongoing
The case of State ex rel. Deters v. City of Cincinnati arose from collusion between the Cincinnati Mayor and the Hamilton County Prosecutor in which the Mayor asked the Prosecutor to sue the City. The only parties to the Deters v Cincinnati litigation are the County Prosecutor in his official capacity and the City. The pleadings asserted that a particular encampment of people experiencing homelessness constituted a nuisance under Ohio Revised Code 3719.10 & Chapter 3767, which applies to premises where a felony drug activity occurred. The court issued an ex parte injunction almost immediately, followed by a series of ever-expanding injunctions over the next few days. These injunctions prohibited encampments in (1) most of the public spaces in the City of Cincinnati, then (2) all public spaces in Hamilton County, and then (3) all private spaces throughout Hamilton County. The final, permanent injunction the court entered on August 16 was agreed upon by the County and the City. The injunction also cites not just the Ohio’s drug nuisance law, but also Ohio licensing rules regulating the conditions a property must have before it can host a campground.
The court’s injunctions are extreme in their breadth. They designate encampments – whether on public or private land – as a nuisance anywhere in the County, and enjoin anyone from “unlicensed” camping anywhere in the County. Moreover, the injunctions apply to non-parties.
A separate class action is pending in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, challenging the constitutionality of these injunctions on a variety of grounds. Phillips et al v. City of Cincinnati et al.
The Court of Common Pleas lacked jurisdiction over the case because it was a non-adversarial, even collusive, lawsuit. The Court also lacked jurisdiction to issue an injunction that bound non-parties without notice or a right to be heard, in violation of their procedural due process rights
On October 18, 2018, we filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus and/or Prohibition in the Ohio First District Court of Appeals against the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas judge who issued the overbroad injunctions prohibiting encampments on public or private land anywhere within Hamilton County. Relator (our client) is New Prospect Baptist Church, which has long provided aid for individuals experiencing homelessness, including allowing them to camp on its privately-owned land free of charge – an act that Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas’ overbroad injunction now criminalizes. On October 29, 2018, the respondent judge moved to dismiss the petition for lack of standing. We opposed that motion on November 6 and Respondent replied on November 13.
The court scheduled an alternative writ hearing to review the motion to dismiss for January 23, 2018, but the clerk advised us that the “hearing” was a scheduling matter only, and that the court would not automatically schedule oral argument. On December 17 we filed a motion for oral argument at this hearing. The motion was granted on December 27, and oral argument was scheduled for January 23, 2019.