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State ex rel. Ohio Acad. of Trial Lawyers v. Sheward

Supreme Court of Ohio

September 29, 1998, Submitted ; August 16, 1999, Decided

No. 97-2419



 [*455]  [**1071]   ALICE ROBIE RESNICK, J.

Am.Sub.H.B. No. 350 Converts the Drive for Civil Justice Reform into an Attack on the Judiciary as a Coordinate Branch of Government

For more than a decade, Ohio has been home to an ongoing conflict over the necessity and propriety of transforming the civil justice system. In its most elementary form, this conflict reflects a power struggle between those who seek to limit their liability and financial exposure for civil [***10]  wrongs and those who seek compensation for their injuries. Research indicates that there is a vast amount of scholarly analysis available on either side of virtually every conceivable aspect of this debate. 3 All arguments going to the soundness of legislative policy  [*456]  choices, however, are directed to their proper place, which is outside the door to this courthouse. This court "has nothing to do with the policy or wisdom of a statute. That is the exclusive concern of the legislative branch of the government." State ex rel. Bishop v. Mt. Orab Village School Dist. Bd. of Edn. (1942), 139 Ohio St. 427, 438,  [**1072]  22 Ohio Op. 494, 498, 40 N.E.2d 913, 919. "The only judicial inquiry into the constitutionality of a statute involves the question of legislative power, not legislative wisdom." State ex rel. Bowman v. Allen Cty. Bd. of Commrs. (1931), 124 Ohio St. 174, 196, 177 N.E. 271, 278.

 [***11]  [*457]   This struggle, waged by powerful and capable interests on both sides of the issue, has created turbulence among our coordinate branches of government. 4 [***12]  While the General Assembly and former Governor Voinovich have clearly expressed their commitment to revamp the civil justice system, this court has struck down significant components of these legislative measures as having gone too far, to the point of violating the constitutional rights of our citizens. 5  [*458]  Nevertheless, each has endeavored to comport with the principle  [**1073]  of separation of powers and respect the integrity and independence of the other, that is, until now.

 [***13]  Am.Sub.H.B. No. 350 is the latest effort at civil justice reform and, to be sure, the most comprehensive and multifarious legislative measure thus far. 6 [***14]  More  [*459]  important, it changes the complexion of the reform debate into a challenge to the judiciary as a coordinate branch of government. It marks the first time in modern history that the General Assembly has openly challenged this court's authority to prescribe rules governing the courts of Ohio and to render definitive interpretations of the Ohio Constitution binding upon the other branches. 7 

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86 Ohio St. 3d 451 *; 715 N.E.2d 1062 **; 1999 Ohio LEXIS 2580 ***; 1999-Ohio-123


Subsequent History:  [***1]  As Amended December 30, 1999.

Disposition: Am.Sub.H.B. No. 350 is unconstitutional in toto, and the writs of prohibition and mandamus as prayed for by relators are granted.


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