The Metamora attorney who requested intervention in an upcoming Ohio Supreme Court case concerning charter reform was denied after missing a deadline.
Charles Saunders failed to file a merit brief on time regarding his motion to intervene in the matter of a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted. Husted has been sued by attorneys Terry Lodge and Bill Kinsman on behalf of petitioners who submitted initiatives for the Nov. 3 ballot to adopt charter governments in Fulton, Athens, and Medina counties. They contend Husted overreached his authority Aug. 13 when he ruled against the petitions based on their language rather than on their legitimacy.
The Ohio Supreme Court had approved Saunders’ motion to intervene, but he failed to submit a required merit brief – which expands on the reasons for the motion – by the 5 p.m. deadline Sept. 4.
The attorney, who represents himself and Fulton County residents RJ Lumbrezer and Roy Norman as complainants to the county’s charter petition, faults himself for the failure. “As a lawyer, I should have known ahead of time that this was coming down, that I should have had my merit brief in by a certain time,” he said.
Saunders said he worked doggedly on the brief through the night of Sept. 3 and into Sept. 4 but couldn’t complete it on time. His request four days later for an extension to Sept. 10 was denied.
In his application for an extension, Saunders admitted that, because he has practiced law only since 2013, he remains inexperienced in matters of both the Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals.
“He freely admits that his education concerning appellate law and procedures is ongoing,” Saunders wrote of himself. He noted that his motion to intervene wasn’t approved until shortly before the merit brief deadline, and that he wasn’t aware of the deadline until 11 p.m. the night before.
Missing the deadline cost Saunders the possibility of including his specific arguments against the Fulton County charter petition alongside Husted’s broader arguments against all three county ballot initiatives. Saunders said the court’s approval of his motion to intervene stands, but because he missed the merit brief deadline it’s unlikely he’ll be permitted to contribute.
“It’s a little disappointing. You live and learn. That’s life,” he said.
Lodge said despite Saunders’ misstep the charter petitioners still face opposing briefs from seven other parties, including the County Commissioners’ Association and the American and Ohio Gas Associations.
“It would have been eight instead of seven briefs, and the seven filed covered every imaginable argument,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet. We’ve got a long way to go before the Supreme Court makes a decision.”
Saunders said although his arguments won’t be included, “we’re still considered a party to the case.” He said any benefits conferred to the group of opponents would be conferred to the Fulton County complainants as well.
And he’s confident Husted’s decision will be vindicated.
“Absolutely, without a doubt. We will win because of case law,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.