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 March 30, 2018 the Ohio Justice and Policy Center and the law firm Thompson Hine filed a complaint against OPB in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas challenging these policies. The plaintiff, Rhonda Head, was sentenced to 15 years to life on charges of murder and kidnapping. Though Ms. Head presented a strong case for parole on her first application in 2016—including two job offers and a stable residence waiting for her, numerous recommendation letters, a strong record of completion and even founding numerous rehabilitative programs while in prison, and a positive evaluation by a psychologist—her application was denied. The lawsuit seeks a declaration from the court that OPB’s unwritten policies violate its obligation to provide “meaningful consideration” to applicants. Courts cannot order OPB to release inmates, but can find that OPB’s decision was based on impermissible considerations and order reconsideration.
On May 11 Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss; on June 8 Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Opposition; and on June 20 Defendant filed its Reply. We await a ruling on the motion.
On August 17 Plaintiff filed her Initial Joint Disclosure of Witnesses and First Requests for Production of Documents. On August 21 Defendant filed a Motion to Stay Discovery pending a ruling on its Motion to Dismiss. On September 4 Plaintiff filed her Memorandum in Opposition.
On October 30, 2018, attorneys for the ACLU of Ohio entered the case as co-counsel for the Plaintiff.
In December parties agreed to extend all deadlines in the case, and have since proceeded with discovery. At her deposition, Parole Board Chair Trayce Thalheimer indicated Ms. Head may be successful if she requests a reconsideration of her parole denial. On June 11, 2019 we requested a reconsideration hearing, and on June 14 it was granted. A parole suitability hearing will be held in August. The parties agreed to suspend case proceedings and deadlines in the meantime.