The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts must respond to one of three records requests a state prison inmate accused the clerk of failing to provide. However, the inmate is not entitled to financial damages from the office for the lack of response to the request, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.
In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval must produce a document from Lionel Harris’ aggravated murder trial that occurred around January 1992 or inform Harris that the document does not exist. Harris maintained that Pureval never responded to his public records request and he was entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages.
The Court clarified that while Ohio’s public records act, R.C. 149.43, provides for damages when a public official does not respond to a records request, court records are governed by the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio, which does not have a financial penalty provision.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Judith L. French, Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine and Mary DeGenaro joined the majority opinion.
Justice Terrence O’Donnell dissented, stating he would affirm the judgment of the First District Court of Appeals, which dismissed the case.