ELYRIA — The Ohio 9th District Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded rulings made by Lorain County Probate Court Judge Jim Walther in two cases in which he ordered two men to keep from fathering anymore children.
London Chapman pleaded guilty to 11 counts of failing to pay child support, and Lee Anderson pleaded guilty to five counts of the same, according to the court of appeals decision released Monday.
In both cases, the men were sentenced to community control for five years by Walther, and as a condition of the community control were ordered to “make all reasonable efforts to avoid impregnating a woman during the community control period.”
Monday evening, Walther said he didn’t feel it’s fair to say the court of appeals reversed his decision, even though that’s what the decision filed says.
“All they did was remanded it,” he said. “They upheld it for the nonconstitutional reasons, and they remanded it on the constitutional reasons. I’m going to set a pretrial with just myself and the two attorneys.”
Walther said he felt the court remanded the decision because it didn’t think there was any discussion of Chapman or Anderson’s constitutional rights in Walther’s original decision.
According to attorney Giovanna Scaletta-Bremke, who represented both men in their cases and filed the appeal of Walther’s decision, the appeal was broken down into two parts.
“There’s two different aspects of the appeal,” she said. “One is what they call the lifting
mechanism, which in regular terms is the way he can purge himself of this, or the judge can remove this. The judge went through a lengthy list of ways he can do this, such as if one of the children was adopted out, one passes away, if he pays the support or if one of the women forgives the support, the judge would remove this provision of non-procreation.”
Scaletta-Bremke said the Supreme Court has addressed that issue in the past, and the court of appeals essentially was satisfied with Walther’s explanation of that. It wasn’t satisfied with the constitutional end of things, she said.
“They agreed with my opinion that having the right to procreate is a fundamental right afforded by the constitution,” she said. “What that triggers is what is called a strict scrutiny test, which is the highest standard. They said the judge didn’t address the constitutional end of things, so they reversed it and asked the judge to address the constitutional things.”
Walther maintains that the decision was not a reversal, though, saying the court of appeals didn’t say he couldn’t do what he did, but instead said he needs to explain what he did.
“I have to listen to their arguments about the constitutional reasons, and I assume the prosecutor would say it is constitutional and the defense attorney would say it’s unconstitutional,” Walther said. “I believe what the court of appeals is saying is that I have to include that in my decision.”
Scaletta-Bremke is happy with the court’s decision, though.
“It was a win in that they agreed (procreation) was a fundamental right,” she said. “It also has their attention as to the constitutionality of the provision, which has always been our main issue.”
Whether or not either man plans on having more children in the future isn’t really the concern, Scaletta-Bremke said. Instead, it’s really more about whether there’s a constitutional right for the sentence to be imposed.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said appealing the decision by the court of appeals is under consideration, but he “won’t make a final determination until he reviews everything.”
Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146
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