Appeals Court Arguments Show Impact of Laws on Students | News, Sports, Jobs


COLUMBIANA — More than 100 students from Crestview High School and Junior High School got to see a part of the local justice system on Wednesday that few see — an Ohio appeals court hearing oral arguments from attorneys to help judges decide how to decide a criminal or civil case brought before them.

Specifically, it was the Youngstown 7th District Court of Appeals, which hears criminal and civil cases from common pleas, municipal and county courts in eight eastern Ohio counties, including Mahoning and Columbiana.

One of the cases they heard on Wednesday was an appeal of a ruling by Judge Maureen Sweeney of the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas that granted summary judgment to Liberty Township in Trumbull County, this which means a decision in favor of the township without the need for a trial.

The case involves Liberty Police Department Officer David Rankin who on March 4, 2020 observed a pickup truck with a loud exhaust system. Rankin tried to make a traffic stop on the vehicle in the township. The vehicle did not stop immediately and was on Upland Avenue near Gypsy Lane in Youngstown when it stopped.

Rankin and another officer discovered Clifford Wright, a passenger in the truck, had three felony warrants. Then they saw Wright open the door and run down Upland Avenue, according to court documents.

Rankin released his police dog, Leo, and the other officer ran after Wright. Leo chased Wright into the back yard of 292 Upland, where Wright jumped a fence. Officers then captured Wright at another location.

When Rankin arrived in the backyard, Leo was at the foot of the fence and waved the dog back to Rankin. The two officers observed Mullins, owner of the house, in a small shed.

Officers told Mullins to wait in the hangar with the door closed, which Mullins did. But when Mullins suddenly opened the door, officers saw Mullins tripping over items in the shed and saw the dog “make contact with Mullins at about knee height”, a deposit by the States of the canton.

Officers did not see the dog bite Mullins, but Mullins claims he suffered injuries to his face and eyes and alleged negligence by Liberty officers. Mullins sued the township for damages in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Mullins’ attorney argued Liberty’s officers weren’t in a predicament “burning pursuit” situation that would justify traveling to another county. The officers were “freelance work in the hallway of Gypsy Lane”, Mullins’ attorney John McNally III said during closing arguments.

Mullins, who is a retired battalion chief with the Youngstown Fire Department, appealed Judge Sweeney’s decision.

Written briefs were filed by both parties. The next step was the pleadings. After the hearing, the appeal panel said it would consider the case and make a decision later on whether to uphold or reverse Sweeney’s decision.

During the hearing, the judges heard presentations from McNally and attorney Mel Lute Jr, who represents the township. The judges also asked the lawyers questions about the case.

For example, Judge Cheryl Waite asked McNally “When would (Mullins) have been bitten by the dog? »

McNally said Mullins was “standing in the shed, and they told him to come in, and that’s when the dog jumped in my client’s face, so it happened very quickly that the dog…jumped on my client.”

Waite then asked, “Is it your allegation that the policeman provoked the dog to attack your client, ordered the dog to attack your client?

“Nope,” McNally said.

“We allege that (Rankin) was negligent in supervising the dog in the backyard, and that is why my client was attacked.”

Judge Carol Robb then asked if the “sovereign immunity” the township claims it is responsible in cases like this is affected by the fact that the policeman and the dog leave the township and enter Youngstown, which is in another county.

McNally said he thinks it’s “because sovereign immunity extends to you as an officer in this commune. This does not extend to the entire state.

He said he doesn’t think the idea of “Sovereign immunity should follow them when there is no evidence of an immediate prosecution and no evidence that a crime has been committed that they have observed.”

Glenn Olsen, a sophomore at Crestview, said during a break in hearings that he would hate to think that someone could commit a crime in one county and then try to flee to another county to escape. to his responsibility.

“But at the same time, it’s a dangerous precedent that a police officer can just chase someone into someone’s backyard and have full immunity from negligence if their canine unit acts improperly.”

Olsen said he hasn’t decided what kind of career to pursue, but the law will be “interesting. I was told that I would make a good lawyer. I always kept that in mind because I was interested in legal affairs, but at the same time, it is a difficult profession.

Judge Donofrio said during a break in hearings that he believed exposing young people to the workings of the appeals court and other parts of government helped citizens understand “the function of government” and enables citizens to hold their government officials more accountable.

He said an appeals court like the 7th District is a “checking and balancing the trial process (so) that litigants receive a fair trial.” He said, “What we are doing is determining whether the trial judge made an error that affected the outcome of the case.”

Doris Buzzard, who teaches 10th grade government, said she teaches students to understand the purpose of the various amendments to the United States Constitution. Today’s hearings have helped students understand the impact of these changes on their rights and their lives.

During the break, the students told him, “Ms. Buzzard, Sovereign Immunity, we now understand that. She said the hearings are “this real app.”

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