Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Lawyer Firing

     (CN) – A Cincinnati-area prosecutor won a two-year battle with Hamilton County commissioners over the county’s hiring of an outside law firm for advice on riverfront development. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld an order terminating Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease as the county’s special counsel.

     Joseph Deters, the prosecuting attorney for Hamilton County, objected when his department’s 2009 budget was $1 million less than he requested. He challenged the county’s hiring the Vorys firm for riverfront development issues. The county has reportedly paid the firm about $17 million over the last decade to advise the county on riverfront development, including the construction of the Reds’ Great American Ballpark and the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium.
     Deters asked the judges of the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court to end the county’s arrangement with the Vorys firm, effective on Jan. 1, 2010, and the judges agreed.
     The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners objected that the special counsel arrangement was terminated without their knowledge, but Deters and the judges would not change their minds.
     The board then asked the Ohio Supreme Court for relief, arguing that the 12 judges who agreed to fire the Vorys firm lacked jurisdiction to do so.
     The justices said the county commissioners failed to prove that the judges lacked the authority to terminate the Vorys firm’s contract.
     “Because the common pleas court and its judges did not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction to issue the order terminating the board’s employment of special counsel, the board had an adequate remedy by a timely appeal from that order to raise its claims,” the justices wrote.
     “The mere fact that this remedy may no longer be available because the board failed to timely pursue it does not entitle it to the requested extraordinary relief in prohibition.”

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