Cases Question Whether Corporation May Be Tried ‘In Absentia’ When It Fails to Respond to Summons
City of Cleveland v. Destiny Ventures, LLC, Case no. 2008-2230
City of Cleveland v. Washington Mutual Bank, Case no. 2009-0441
8th District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)
NOTE: The two cases captioned above will be argued separately before the Court. They are summarized together below because they deal with the same underlying issue, and the parties advance similar legal arguments.
ISSUES: In cases where a corporation is served with a summons and copy of an indictment or information charging the company with a criminal offense, and the defendant corporation fails to have an officer of the company or an attorney appear at arraignment and enter a responsive motion or plea to the charged offense(s), R.C. 2941.47 authorizes Ohio courts to schedule a trial and notify the defendant company that it if it fails to appear on that date, the court will proceed with a trial in the absence of the defendant. In this case the Supreme Court is asked to review conflicting rulings in two cases heard by different panels of the 8th District Court of Appeals, and to determine:
* If ‘in absentia’ trials may only be conducted in cases where a corporation is charged with a felony offense by means of a grand jury indictment or bill of information; or if such trials are also authorized in cases where the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor offense by the filing of a criminal complaint.
* If a trial court’s authority to conduct an in absentia trial is limited by provisions of Ohio Criminal Rule 43, which addresses the presence or absence of a criminal defendant during court proceedings, and/or by R.C. 2938.12, which establishes a procedure by which a defendant may request permission to be absent during trial proceedings.
* If R.C. 2941.47 as applied in these cases violates a corporate defendant’s constitutional right to be present and/or to have the assistance of counsel at trial.