Ohio Administrative Law: May one bringing an administrative appeal in Ohio append to that a claim under 42 USC Section 1983?

The Finney Law Firm prides itself on our aggressive stance in countering the actions of bureaucratic bullies through claims resulting not just in a victory in the administrative battle being fought, but also in recovering monetary damages, attorneys fees and injunctive relief against those very bureaucrats.

However, because of abstention under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and its progeny (that has been significantly scaled back by a the recent Supreme Court decision in Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs, 571 U.S. __, 134 S.Ct. 584 (2013)) and other principles of administrative law and comity, it is a bit of a challenge of how to “turn the tables” on government actors and bring a challenge under 42 USC Section 1983 concurrent with the administrative proceeding.

We had such a case in 2012.  There, our client was being disciplined by the Ohio Elections Commission in a proceeding we were certain was unconstitutional violation of her free speech rights.

First, we raised First Amendment defenses before the agency.  They were simply deaf to such arguments.  Then, when filing our Section 119 administrative appeal in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, we appended a claim for declaratory and injunctive relief under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as allowed by 42 USC Section 1983.

And, of course, to level the playing field against an agency who had the full resources of state govermment against her, such claims include the right to have the client’s attorneys fees reimbursed by the State if the Plaintiff prevails.

In Magda v. Ohio Elections Commission, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Case No. 12-CVH 10-13674, the state opposed that Complaint saying that state law did not tolerate a Section 1983 challenge to accompany an administrative appeal.  The trial court disagreed, and Judge Mark Serrott wrote this decision allowing the challenge to proceed arm-in-arm with the Chapter 119 appeal.

Judge Serrott later granted the State’s Motion for Summary Judgment, denying both our administrative appeal and the Section 1983 challenge to the statute.  That decision was appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Interestingly, the State at that level did not renew their challenge to the Section 1983 claim accompanying the Chapter 119 appeal.  Thus, the issue proceeded with both claims before the appeals court.

In the end, the Court of Appeals overturned the trial court decision and granted summary judgment to our client on both the administrative appeal and the constitutuonal claims.  Thus, Plaintiff won a permanent injunciton against the enforcement of the statute and reimbursement of the full measure of her attorneys fees dating back to the initiation of the action before the agency under the constitutional claim.

So, yes, a constitutuional challenge (or any claim challenging the authority of the legislature to enact the offending law or the agency to enforce the same in the manner that it has), can be brought along with a Chapter 119 administrative appeal.

This vigorous and creative response to a prosecution by bureaucrats raging out of control in Columbus is a prime example of how the attorneys at the FInney Law Firm succeed in “making a difference” for our clients.

Let us know how we can solve your business and bureaucratic challenges.