Monday, December 30, 2013

What Has the Court Done This Year?

Part of my interest in this blog is being able to explain what justices do. I like to say that our job in a nutshell is to listen, read, think, argue, and write.

As usual, this year we issued over 200 written opinions.  You might wonder what those cases were about. Some cases dealt with court procedure, interesting mainly to lawyers and judges. Other opinions interpreted laws as they were applied to particular situations.

We had disciplinary cases where we decided how those who violated rules that govern the legal profession should be punished. And most important, we wrote on capital cases. Because Ohio has the death penalty, life and death hangs in the balance.

A few cases can be singled out this year. First Amendment cases based on freedom of speech often have media as a party.  But this year, we reviewed rules relating to a union’s informational picketing and the rights of a middle-school teacher to use religious materials in science class.  Not the typical issues.

Of course we had election issues and other cases with political overtones. We found one sheriff to be unqualified to serve his county, and we upheld the Ohio Controlling Board’s appropriation of money for expanded Medicaid after the governor had vetoed part of the state’s budget legislation. 

In 2013, we looked at what happens when someone is released from prison because of a mistake in procedure and answered when that person may be eligible for money from the state for wrongful imprisonment. We discussed when and how convictions should be sealed from public view, and if they should be expunged (wiped out completely) upon a governor’s pardon.

Because the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that certain witnesses can’t testify without violating a defendant’s confrontation rights, a majority of our court decided that in certain situations teachers cannot testify about what children had told them about suspected child abuse.

Because of a new law, we decided unanimously that a doctor’s statement of apology and sympathy could not be used against him at trial. We handled two cases that explained the law and procedure relating to mortgage lenders and foreclosures, and we wrestled with the law on DNA testing requirements after someone is convicted. 

And in a criminal case where the state had to prove the alcohol content in a sale to a minor, we said the court could not use “judicial notice” by telling the jury that Bud Light was beer and that it was a fact it was an alcoholic beverage.  When the court of appeals reversed the conviction, the defendant could not be retried because the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to convict the first time.

These, and all our decisions, are a matter of public record. The Supreme Court’s website will help you see and hear online the cases that are argued. You can also read the opinions or summaries when they are published.

No comments:

Post a Comment