Chief Justice O’Connor Sets Aside GEVS District Disqualification Affidavit Against Justice Coss

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has ruled that Highland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Rocky Coss can continue to preside over the ongoing trial between the school district of exempt village of Greenfield and the village of Greenfield, after the chief judge quashed the school district’s affidavit. seeking to challenge the judge.

As previously reported, following an April 27 filing by the Greenfield Exempt Village Schools in support of their motion for summary judgment against the Village of Greenfield, Coss denied the motion on May 2.

The school district originally filed a civil lawsuit for declaratory relief in the Highland County Court of Common Pleas on Jan. 13, in which the GEVS School Board wrote that it was “bringing this lawsuit in response to the village of Greenfield to issue a waiver to the Commission regarding the Commission’s plan to construct a bus maintenance facility on Commission-owned property which is located in the village on the block bordered by Seventh Street, Eighth Street , North Street and McClain Ave.

In a new filing by the GEVS board of directors on April 4, the board “seeked summary judgment in its favor against [the Village of Greenfield] holding this [the GEVSD’s] the proposed bus facility at issue in this lawsuit is a permitted use under the Village of Greenfield zoning code. Coss filed its decision May 2 denying the District’s April 4 motion for summary judgment, referring to the April 4 motion for summary judgment, the Village’s April 20 memorandum of objection, and the District’s April 27 response. april.

GEVSD attorney Nelson M. Reid filed the aforementioned affidavit seeking disqualification of Coss, which was accepted May 17 by the Clerk of the Supreme Court. In it, Reid alleged that Coss had an ex parte communication with Greenfield Law Director Hannah Bivens – based on a copy of an email conversation between Bivens and the village expert witness, who was listed in Reid’s affidavit – and that there was an appearance that another alleged communication between Bivens and the judge took place.

Coss filed a response to the affidavit in which he “categorically denied” the school district’s allegations.

In a two-page judgment entry decision filed May 25 with the Clerk of the Supreme Court and May 31 with the Clerk of Highland County Courts, O’Connor summarized the affidavit filed by Reid and the response. filed by Coss before determining that the allegations were based on a presumption by Reid.

“Mr. Reid alleged that Judge Coss engaged in two improper ex parte communications,” O’Connor wrote. Reid’s first allegation, however, is based on speculation. The second allegation is based on an email between the defense attorney and an expert witness – not the judge.

“In his response to the affidavit, Judge Coss detailed why Mr. Reid incorrectly assumed that the judge had engaged in ex parte communications. Based on this record, an objective and knowledgeable observer would have no reason to question the impartiality of Justice Coss.

O’Connor concluded by saying that “the affidavit of disqualification is denied” and deciding that “the matter may be brought before Judge Coss”.

On Friday, May 27, Reid also filed an unopposed motion to change the case schedule, asking to postpone the trial scheduled for Thursday, June 2. Reid said the GEVS District is seeking “additional time to complete discovery and prepare for trial” and “additional time to testify the expert witness” from the village as well as Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin.

Following a Zoom hearing on Tuesday, May 31, Judge Coss agreed to continue with the trial, with the new date set for August 18.

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