Ohio SC rules against JobsOhio

Bethany Krajelis Oct. 3, 2012, 3:45pm


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - The Ohio Supreme Court last week dismissed a complaint over JobsOhio, a nonprofit corporation created by the state to promote economic development.

In a 4-2 ruling with one justice not participating, the court dismissed the complaint because "it does not raise a justiciable controversy, essentially seeking either a declaratory judgment or an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of the statute."

JobsOhio in August filed an action for a writ of mandamus, asking the Supreme Court to tell David Goodman, director of the state's Department of Commerce, legislation that created JobsOhio is constitutional and as such, to transfer the state's liquor business to the nonprofit.

JobsOhio was created through legislation enacted by the Ohio General Assembly and approved by Gov. John Kasich.

The legislation, which took effect in February 2011, authorized Kasich to form a nonprofit named "JobsOhio" to promote economic development, the recruitment of business to the state and job creation, retention and training.

In June 2011, Kasich put his stamp of approval on a measure that authorized the state to transfer all or some of the profits from its alcohol business to JobsOhio. The following month, he filed articles of incorporation for JobsOhio with the secretary of state's office.

By September 2011, JobsOhio and the state's Office of Budget and Management started to negotiate terms of an agreement in which JobsOhio would pay the state for a franchise on its liquor business for up to 25 years.

After negotiations came to an end in August, Goodman refused to execute the agreement, explaining in a letter that he questioned the validity of constitutional challenges raised against the JobsOhio-related legislation.

JobsOhio then filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court in hopes of resolving Goodman's constitutional questions and making him execute the agreement.

Without addressing the constitutional claims, the majority of the court last week dismissed the complaint.

"(I)t appears beyond doubt that JobsOhio's mandamus claim does not properly invoke the original jurisdiction of the court," the court held. "We will not decide constitutional claims raised by parties who seek an advisory declaratory judgment for which they have adequate remedies in the ordinary course of law."

The majority of the court explained that "JobsOhio has an adequate remedy by way of a declaratory-judgment action in common pleas court to raise its claim that" the JobsOhio-related legislation is constitutional.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Ann Lanzinger and Yvette McGee Brown made up the court's majority in this ruling. Justice Terrence O'Donnell did not participate.

Justices Paul Pfiefer and Robert Cupp, however, dissented from the majority.

Pfiefer wrote in his dissent that he would grant an alternative writ.

Although the Supreme Court's "consideration of original actions that address the constitutionality of statutes is 'limited to exceptional circumstances that demand early resolution,'" Pfiefer wrote in his dissent that "this is one of those extraordinary cases."

In his dissent, Cupp wrote that he would have granted a handful of business groups' motions to file briefs in support of JobsOhio, as well as a motion to intervene as respondents filed by two lawmakers and an advocacy group.

Cupp also wrote he would have granted an alternative writ and issued a schedule for the presentation of evidence and briefs.

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