COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The city of Columbus has sued a judge for failing to make rulings in the city’s lawsuit against Ohio concerning a 2019 law expanding self-defense.
In the lawsuit filed in the Ohio Supreme Court Monday, the city accuses Judge Stephen L. McIntosh of not issuing rulings on multiple motions in Columbus’ case challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s law limiting the duty to retreat in self-defense cases. Monday’s lawsuit against the judge asked McIntosh to issue rulings on the outstanding motions – including a motion to stop the law from taking effect.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, and the court has remained silent on this case for more than three years as gun violence continues to devastate our communities,” Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a press release Monday.
McIntosh’s office did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
House Bill 228, which former Gov. John Kasich originally vetoed but the statehouse pushed through in early 2019, eliminated some duties to retreat and shifted the burden of proof on self-defense claims from the defense to the prosecution.
The duty to retreat, common in self-defense laws, requires a person to use any and all means to flee a situation before claiming self-defense. Previous law waived the duty to retreat when a person is protecting their residence. Under H.B. 228, however, the duty to retreat exemption expanded to include a person’s vehicle.
The law also requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt – the most stringent standard in criminal law – that a person was not acting in defense of self, of another, or of their residence. Previously, the defense had to prove beyond a preponderance of the evidence – that it was more likely than not – that the person acted in self-defense.
H.B. 228 also enshrined a person’s right to purchase and own firearms, explicitly protecting it from restriction by “any ordinance, rule, regulation, resolution, or other action.”
The city sued the state in 2019, claiming that H.B. 228 violated home rule and the separation of powers doctrine under the Ohio Constitution by restricting local municipalities’ ability to pass gun-related ordinances. After months of back-and-forth filings, the city claimed McIntosh never ruled on two motions: the city’s motion to temporarily stop the law from taking effect and the state’s motion to dismiss the claim.
Ohio law requires courts to rule upon motions within 120 days of filing – a deadline that passed more than three years ago, the city said.
Klein said that as homicides and assaults by firearm continue to occur in Columbus, it has become increasingly urgent for the city to pass legislation curbing the tide of violence.
“Cities like Columbus are feeling the impact of laws written by the gun lobby and passed by Statehouse Republicans that push more guns into our streets without any real safeguards to keep these weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” Klein said. “A decision in this lawsuit is critical to the city’s ability to take the necessary steps to keep our kids and communities safe and to do something about gun violence.”
The city’s filing can be read below.