Ohio Supreme Court gets 4 critical smoking questions
Whether people will be able to light up cigarettes and cigars in restaurants and bars in Lucas County may be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court.
U.S. District Court Judge David Katz sent key legal questions about the countyâ€™s strict indoor smoking ban to Ohioâ€™s high court yesterday.
The four questions certified to the court deal with the following issues:
Did the state legislature grant health boards the authority to prohibit smoking in all public places as defined in the regulation?
If so, does that violate the state constitution?
Does the regulation conflict with or is it preempted by existing Ohio law that governs smoking in places of public accommodation by calling for nonsmoking areas in certain places?
If the regulation conflicts with an existing municipal ordinance or one that is passed in the future, which regulation would be followed?
The regulation, passed May 24 by the Toledo-Lucas County board of health, is being challenged by a group composed mostly of bar owners.
The ban, the toughest passed in Ohio, was scheduled to take effect July 8, but Judge Katz has delayed its implementation until legal questions surrounding it can be resolved.
Just because the questions are being sent to the Ohio Supreme Court doesnâ€™t mean the justices have to hear them.
Four of the courtâ€™s seven justices have to vote to hear the questions. If the court decides not to accept them, the issue goes back to Judge Katz.
The Supreme Courtâ€™s next conference to decide what cases to hear is scheduled for Aug. 28.
Regina Koehler, a spokeswoman for the court, said itâ€™s unlikely the smoking ban questions will be considered by the justices at that conference.
She said each party to the lawsuit has 20 days to file a memorandum explaining why the court should hear the questions, and that likely wouldnâ€™t leave enough time before the conference. The next available conference would be Sept. 18.
Ms. Koehler said if the Supreme Court accepts the questions, it could be about a year before it issues a ruling.
Andy Ranazzi, an assistant county prosecutor representing the health board, said thatâ€™s a faster time table than the case would have had if it had gone through the entire appeals process.
He said heâ€™s hopeful the Supreme Court will hear the four legal questions both sides have decided are critical to determining the smoking banâ€™s legality.
"[The Supreme Court] takes most of these certified issues from federal court so that makes us confident," Mr. Ranazzi said. "Plus, itâ€™s an important issue, so that makes us more confident."