CVR Member, Attorney and LCDR, USNR (Retired), Michael Goldstein testified beore the Ohio House of Representatives on April 12, 2016.

The topic was HB 339.  

There are four reasons why the members of the Judiciary Committee should vote in favor of this bill:  

First, and most importantly, this bill will protect the constitutional rights of a multitude of people from foreign lands, many of them new to the United States and to Ohio, who do not yet understand our laws and how to invoke them, and who may not understand either the English language or our legal system very well. HB 339 will constitute the General Assembly’s statement of the intent of the people of the State of Ohio that foreign judgments, foreign laws, and foreign courts’ opinions will not be applied, enforced, or deferred to by Ohio courts when such judgments, laws, or courts fail to accord litigants their fundamental constitutional rights guaranteed under the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Ohio.

Second, the present state of Ohio law relating to enforcement of foreign judgments and the application of foreign law in our courts requires that each trial court judge and each administrative agency magistrate, hearing officer, administrative law judge, and arbitrator faced with deciding a matter involving foreign law, determine whether the application of such foreign law is in harmony with or violates the public policy of the State of Ohio.  Enactment of HB 339 would end the probability of various courts and administrative agencies and arbitrators making disparate decisions regarding application of foreign law based on essentially similar facts.  The General Assembly, by enacting this bill, will provide Ohio’s first line triers of law and fact with the definition of Ohio’s public policy in the application of all foreign law.  HB 339, with respect to how Ohio tribunals must determine Ohio’s public policy in the application of foreign laws and judgments, is “one-stop shopping” to protect litigants’ constitutional rights.

Third, this is as it should be.  Although we are mostly lawyers here, the Ohio House of Representatives, the People’s House, together with the Ohio Senate, rather than judges, should be determining the public policy of our State.  I suggest that as representatives of the people, members of the House, and members of this Committee, should not be in favor of leaving the definition of Ohio public policy to piecemeal determinations by the courts.  I suggest that he General Assembly should provide Ohio law in this area, and that is what passage of HB 339 will do.

Fourth, although Ohio’s appellate courts (unlike appellate courts in several other states) are deciding properly most foreign law issues in cases that come before them, and are protecting the constitutional rights of those foreign litigants who have learned enough and who have the financial resources to get to a court of appeals, as lawyers we know that only a minor fraction of trial court cases are appealed.  If the trial court or administrative agency or arbitrator fails to apply proper constitutional scrutiny to foreign law, there is little chance that most litigants will be able to appeal.  How much more difficult is the plight of a litigant before an administrative agency whose only path to appeal is a mandamus action where the burden of proof requires the relator to demonstrate that there was no evidence by which the administrative agency could have reached its decision!  It is the responsibility of the General Assembly to provide this legislative guidance to the trial courts and administrative agencies and arbitrators so that litigants’ constitutional rights will be protected and cases can be properly decided at the first level.