Earlier this week, two amicus curiae briefs were filed with the Supreme Court of Ohio on behalf of the Ohio School Boards Association. In both briefs, OSBA was joined by other parties. OSBA had been asked by member school districts to prepare these briefs through its Legal Assistance Fund.
The first brief provides support to the Youngstown City School District Board of Education in Youngstown City School Dist. Bd of Edn v. State of Ohio. The memorandum in support of jurisdiction urges the court to accept the case on appeal. It was filed on behalf of OSBA, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ohio Association of School Business Officials, and Lorain City School District Board of Education.
In the Youngstown case, the board of education is appealing the lower court’s decision and challenging the constitutionality of Am.Sub.H.B. 70, which amended the law governing academic distress commissions. R.C. 3302.10, amended by H.B. 70, allows for the appointment of an unelected chief executive officer for a district in academic district and usurps the powers of elected boards of education.
The brief argues that this case offers the court the opportunity to add to the law interpreting and applying two provisions of the Ohio Constitution: (1) the three reading rule, which requires both the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives to consider each bill on three different days; and (2) the provision that reserves to the voters in a city school district the power to determine the size and structure of the board of education.
New Riegel case
The second brief was requested by the New Riegel Local School District board of education in New Riegel Local School Dist. Bd. Of Edn. v. The Buehrer Group Architecture and Eng., Inc. The memorandum in support of the board of education urges the court to uphold the decision of the Third District Court of Appealsin favor of the board. It was filed on behalf of OSBA, County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Ohio Municipal League, Ohio Township Association, and Erie County.
In New Riegel, the board of education sued an architectural firm, general contractor, and other contractors involved in the construction of a K-12 school, alleging breach of contract because of persistent water infiltration and structural issues since the building was finished. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the basis that the board’s claims against them were time-barred by the statute of repose (RC 2305.131) because they were brought more than ten years after the project was completed. The Third District Court of Appeals reversed, based on prior Supreme Court of Ohio case law, holding that the statute of repose applies only to tort claims and does not apply to breach of contract actions.
The amicus brief urges the court to uphold the appeals court’s decision and allow the district board of education to pursue its breach of contract action against the defendants. It argues that the plain language of the statute of repose shows that it does not apply to breach of contract claims.
Each of these amicus briefs was requested by a member school district through the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF). LAF was established in 1976 to support school districts defending legal challenges with the potential to affect public schools across the state.
When contemplating support for a district in a particular case, LAF’s trustees determine whether: (1) the case involves a significant legal issue; and (2) the issue is of statewide significance. LAF can provide support to districts by assisting with costs of litigation, providing amicus curiae briefs and conducting legal research.
Districts interested in joining LAF can find the LAF membership application on OSBA’s website. In order to receive support in a particular legal dispute, a board should complete a request for assistance, which is available here.
If your district is, or expects to be, involved in litigation with statewide implications, don’t forget LAF. The trust was established to support districts. If you have any questions, please contact OSBA’s division of legal services.