London Chapman and Lee Anderson are both fathers who pled guilty to felony non-payment of child support in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. Each was ordered to pay restitution and back child support in the amounts of approximately $200,000 and $50,000 respectively. Each was sentenced to 5 years’ probation, subject to the condition that each man:
"[M]ake all reasonable efforts to avoid impregnating a woman during the community control period or until such time that [he] can prove to the Court that he is able to provide support for his children he already has and is in fact supporting the children or until a change in conditions warrant the lifting of this condition[.]"
In two near-identical opinions, the Ninth District court of appeals rejected both appellants’ arguments that the condition is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Both men have appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, asking it to take jurisdiction of their appeal. We agreed to submit briefing as amicus curiae in support of the defendant-appellants’ requests that the Supreme Court exercise jurisdiction to take their cases.
Non-procreation orders violate probationers’ Fourteenth Amendment rights to privacy and personal autonomy. Such provisions invade an individual’s reproductive freedom, are massively and unnecessarily intrusive, and when they contain a payment alternative, restrict only the rights of individuals who are unable to pay. Moreover, the conditions in these cases are impermissibly vague and intrusive under Ohio’s reasonableness test for probation conditions.
On October 17, 2019, both Appellant-Defendants filed notices of appeal and briefs in support of jurisdiction to the Ohio Supreme Court in their respective cases. That same day, we filed amicus briefs in both cases in support of jurisdiction. Appellees filed their Memorandum in Opposition to Jurisdiction on November 18, 2019. On January 21, 303 the Court accepted jurisdiction in both cases. Briefing is stayed in Anderson pending a decision in the Chapman case. The record in Chapman was filed with the Clerk’s office on February 25, 2020. We filed our amicus brief on April 6. Appellants also filed their merits brief on April 6, and the appellees filed theirs on June 8. Oral argument in Chapman was held via videoconference on July 21. By agreement with Appellants, we took approximately half of Appellants’ argument time in order to argue the constitutional issues.
On December 18, the Ohio Supreme Court decided in our favor, striking the condition that Mr. Chapman “make all reasonable efforts to avoid impregnating a woman.” The Court held that punitive infringement of fundamental rights, such as procreation, must only be done in an “exacting” way “to ensure that the condition does not limit the probationer’s liberty more than is necessary to achieve the goals of community control.”