Saturday, December 29, 2007
Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss: Ohio Judge Dismisses Political Retaliation Claim Based On Erroneous Hearsay Ruling
A judge in Ohio has made a seemingly bizarre evidentiary ruling, resulting in the dismissal of Athens County Sheriff's Deputy Jack Taylor's discrimination lawsuit against Sheriff Verne Castle. When Taylor and another deputy, Jim Childs, were passed up for promotion to sergeant in 2005, they filed grievances and complaints. Childs claimed that he was passed over based upon racial discrimination and was successful; he reached a monetary settlement and was eventually promoted to sergeant.
Taylor has been less successful. One of his claims was that Castle harassed him, but the judge hearing his case found that Ohio law does not recognize the tort of civil harassment and thus dismissed the claim. Taylor also sought to recover based upon Castle's alleged defamation of his character, but the judge found that this claim lacked merit and thus dismissed it.
Taylor's third claim was that Castle's failure to promote him was an act of political retaliation because Taylor supported one of Castle's opponents, David Redecker, in the 2004 sheriff's race. Taylor claimed that he had evidence that Castle got angry about a Redecker sign in Taylor's yard and threatened to "get" Taylor. The judge, however, found that this evidence was inadmissible hearsay and thus dismissed this claim despite other evidence that was suspicious but not sufficient to prove retaliation, such as the qualifications of those promoted to sergeant over Taylor.
I don't understand the judge's decision unless there were other factors at play. Ohio Rule of Evidence 801(D)(2)(a) indicates that a statement is an admission and not hearsay if it is offered against a party and is the party's own statement in either an individual or representative capacity. Here, Taylor was offering Castle's own statement against him in a lawsuit in which Castle was a party: the defendant.