The Ohio Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments today on an issue that arose from the posting of a flier at Miami University promoting ways to get away with rape in a men’s restroom.
The legal issue is whether a court’s unlawful sealing of a criminal conviction requires the unsealing of that record and the record of the subsequent dismissal of the charges.
The case arose because the Cincinnati Enquirer, which was covering the flier story, obtained a copy of a court order related to the case of one of the students charged in the case. The attorney for the student who posted the flier and the prosecutor had agreed that the student would plead guilty to disorderly conduct and that the record of the conviction would then be sealed. The judge accepted the agreement and issued an order that the student had pled guilty and sealing the conviction record.
The Enquirer sought to force the judge to unseal the records. The newspaper has argued in part that the judge’s order was unlawful. In fact, the judge has admitted that he relied on the wrong statute to seal this conviction.
While the case was still pending, the judge permitted the student o withdraw his guilty plea. The state indicated that the disorderly conduct charge would no longer be pursued by the office. As a result, the judge sealed the records under a statute that applies to dismissed cases.
The newspaper suggests that the court records associated with the prosecution of this case are public records. In essence, the newspaper suggests that a prosecutor and a defendant cannot conspire to deprive the public of its right of access to a court record. The judge and the court believe that the parties should receive the benefit of a plea bargain, including the sealing of a record to avoid negative publicity.
A decision is expected in about six months.