Early last month I discussed attempts by Kasich and Batchelder to help grant Public Safety Director Tom Charles his secret wish: expanding the Ohio State Highway Patrol into a State Police organization, giving them power to investigate crimes and enforce laws on non-state property.

Current law clearly limits the Patrol’s jurisdiction to state owned or leased property except in the case of an extreme emergency, but Charles has convinced his pals in the Governor’s office and the Legislature – and now, it seems, in the AG’s office too – to help him change that.

The first attempt involved giving the Patrol jurisdiction over privately owned casinos, going against the decision of Kasich’s appointees to the Casino Control Commission who selected the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). In our discussion of the Patrol/BCI/Casino debate, I also mentioned that Kasich was “planning to issue an executive order giving the Patrol jurisdiction in the newly privatized prison on Conneaut.”

It turns out I was half right.

Charles did seek to expand the patrol’s jurisdiction to the newly-privatized Lake Erie Correctional Facility (LECF), which was sold to Corrections Corporation of America for $72.7 million last year, but he did it through the Attorney General’s office and left Kasich (at least publicly) out of it.

In December, James Canepa, Chief Legal Counsel for Tom Charles at the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) (and former Deputy Inspector in Tom Charles’ IG’s office), asked Attorney General DeWine for an opinion on “whether the State Highway Patrol may continue to perform general law enforcement work at LECF of the type it has performed prior to the transfer of ownership.”

In a letter obtained by Plunderbund we find that DeWine’s office responded with this statement:

“we believe LECF remains a “state institution” under R.C. 5503.02(A), and thus the State Highway Patrol retains general law enforcement authority at LECF.”

In the letter, DeWine proceeds to provide multiple examples of why the prison should still be considered a “state institution”. And they make a good case.

Unfortunately, merely being a state institution isn’t sufficient for granting the Patrol jurisdiction.

The section of the Ohio Revised Code that grants the patrol its powers, and the section referenced by DeWine, is ORC 5503.02 which clearly says:

The superintendent or any state highway patrol trooper may enforce the criminal laws on all state properties and state institutions, owned or leased by the state

It seems DeWine answered the wrong question.

DeWine may have proven that the private prison is a “state institution” but in order for the patrol to have jurisdiction over a prison, or any property, it also needs to be “owned or leased by the state” – which LECF no longer is.

DeWine’s letter never addresses the “owned or leased” language, but in order to give a full opinion, it has to. The Ohio supreme Court has held that in interpreting a statute, a court must give “full meaning to every word of the statute.” King v. ProMedica Health System, Inc..

DeWine clearly interpreted the statute incorrectly and incompletely. Which leaves the open question: will Charles and his legal team point out the glaringly obvious problem with the AG’s logic and abide by the law? or will they try to use DeWine’s obviously incorrect judgement to illegally expand the jurisdiction of the patrol?