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Ohio Parole Authority Ordered to Grant Hearings that Provide Meaningful Parole Consideration

by David M. Reutter

The Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County, Ohio has entered summary judgment finding the Ohio Adult Parole Authority (APA) denies “meaningful parole consideration when they assign an inmate to a proper guidelines category, but the lowest possible range in the guidelines chart is beyond the inmate’s earliest parole eligibility date.” The Court ordered the APA to re-hear and grant meaningful parole consideration to class members who had not had a parole hearing since June 2005.

This case arises from the decision in Ankrom v. Hageman, 2005 Ohio 1546 (Ohio Ct. App., Mar. 31, 2005) [PLN, Aug. 2006, p.39], which examined the parole eligibility of “old-law” prisoners who received indeterminate sentences prior to the changes associated with Senate Bill 2 that became effective on July 1, 1996. The Ankrom class consisted of “all parole-eligible Ohio prison inmates who pleaded guilty or no contest to lesser or fewer offenses than for which they were indicted.” The Ankrom court found the APA was denying “meaningful consideration” for parole, and that it was effectively disregarding sentences imposed by the trial courts.

The Ankrom decision resulted in the APA sending notices to all prisoners who were determined to be eligible for new parole hearings under that ruling. When North Central Correctional Institution prisoner David Hall’s name did not appear on the list, he filed a complaint seeking to compel the APA to immediately comply with Ankrom by granting him a meaningful parole hearing. The Court of Common Pleas entered an order in Hall’s case certifying a class of “all parole-eligible Ohio prison inmates whose conviction(s) were obtained by a trial.”

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. In addition to Ankrom, the Court of Common Pleas relied upon Layne v. Ohio Adult Parole Authority, 97 Ohio St.3d 456, 780 N.E.2d 548 (Ohio 2002) [PLN, May 2003, p.19], which held that in “any parole determination involving indeterminate sentencing, the Adult Parole Authority must assign an inmate the offense category score that corresponds to the offense or offenses of conviction.” Both the Ankrom and Layne decisions found the APA was effectively denying prisoners meaningful parole consideration.

While those cases dealt with prisoners who entered plea agreements, Hall’s case dealt with those who went to trial. The Common Pleas Court found the circumstances at the heart of Hall’s case were such that the class “may have been ‘flopped’ at their first hearing and consequently may be currently awaiting a hearing that complies with Defendants’ post-Ankrom policies and practices.” Thus, they were still serving sentences as a result of APA hearings that had denied meaningful consideration for parole.

The APA agreed this may have occurred. Consequently, the Court ordered immediate rehearings for the potential 633 prisoner class members. The Court said its June 2005 deadline did not mean that every class member who received a hearing after that date “necessarily received meaningful consideration for parole,” but it had no specific facts to make such a determination.

The Court entered its judgment in this case on February 9, 2009. See: Hall v. Hageman, Court of Common Pleas, Franklin County (OH), Case No. 05-CVH-05-5459.

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Related legal case

Hall v. Hageman