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Ohio's seven-member Supreme Court had been an exclusively Republican club until Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Chief Justice Eric Brown last April. Now the Chief Justice is joined by Appellate Judge Mary Jane Trapp as excellent Democratic candidates running this year, opposed by two GOP Justices with expiring terms, Maureen O'Connor and Judith Lanzinger.

What difference has a GOP-dominated court made for Ohioans? In short, it has been a long string of favorable decisions for the corporations and business organizations who have poured cash into the campaigns of GOP candidates, and a trail of tears for Ohio working people and consumers. With no balance on the high court, nobody is looking out for the little guy.

One striking example is highlighted in this TV ad that informs Ohioans of the little known story of an elderly Ohio woman named Maxine Spiller and Sky Bank.

In the 6-1 decision Spiller v. Sky Bank, 122 Ohio St.3d 279, 2009-Ohio-268 (2009), available as a .pdf file here, GOP Justices O'Connor and Lanzinger joined the majority in reversing the Court of Appeals and essentially taking away Ms. Spiller's money and giving it to the bank.

While moving a dresser that had belonged to her life-long and recently deceased friend Roberta Staybrook, Ms. Spiller discovered four certificates of deposit and $2,500 in cash taped under one of the drawers. The bank could produce no record of the certificates, which were by their own terms automatically renewing year after year. Three of the four certificates in the envelope were issued to Stayrook individually or to Stayrook "or" Spiller, and these were not at issue in the Ohio Supreme Court because Ms. Spiller could not establish that her deceased friend had not previously cashed them. However, the fourth certificate was issued to Spiller alone, and Ms. Spiller testified that she had never cashed it. The Court of Appeals ruled that Ms. Spiller had met her burden of proof and was entitled to her money, which with interest amounted to nearly $30,000.

Ignoring Ms. Spiller's testimony, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the bank's failure to retain records of the certificate of deposit was excused, and the bank was in fact immune from suit, based on a statute (Ohio Revised Code §1109.60) which provides that banks are not required to maintain account records beyond a certain period of time after the accounts are closed. The high court discarded the holding of the Court of Appeals, supported by prior precedent, that the statute does not authorize a bank to destroy the records of an active automatically renewable certificate of deposit.

The certificates at issue in the above-mentioned case were automatically renewing.  Each year, with no effort of the consumer, the investments were renewed.  The bank retained the capital and was able to invest the capital. Yet when the consumer tried to redeem the investment, the bank escaped liability of payment based on its own inability to produce a record of the consumer's investment.  Is this the type of protection we want to provide Ohio consumers in such uncertain economic times?

So much for saving for retirement or a rainy day in the future.  With this ruling, consumers cannot even take comfort in low-risk, low-reward investments such as certificates of deposit if the consumer fails to bring their claim within six years after the bank destroys records of the account.  It's no wonder that Justice Paul Pfeifer expressed incredulity over this result in his pithy dissent: "Not everybody sits and counts his or her money every day.  Mrs. Spiller has the certificate of deposit.  The bank has nothing.  The bank wins? I dissent."  

Ohioans should take a step toward bringing much-needed diversity and balance to the GOP-dominated Ohio Supreme Court by voting for Chief Justice Brown and Appellate Judge Trapp.

Originally posted to Jeff Coryell on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:04 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip, as in tip uipside down and shake till (5+ / 0-)

    there's no money left in any of our pockets.

    Kinda like the Koch brothers, who have been able only to amass a measly $25B APIECE under this terrible, oppressive system that they would shatter - presumably so they could amass $100B or more, and leave absolutely NOTHING for anyone else.

    Greed without oversight is beautiful for them to behold.

    Fear is the mind-killer - Frank Herbert, Dune

    by p gorden lippy on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:22:02 AM PDT

  •  So... why do place like (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    burrow owl, Philpm, Mayfly

    this exist, then?

    What is Unclaimed Property?

    Every U.S. state, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands - and Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada have unclaimed property programs that actively find owners of lost and forgotten assets.

    Unclaimed property laws have been around since at least the 1940s, but have become much broader and more enforced in the last 15 years. Unclaimed property is one of the original consumer protection programs.

    $1.754 billion returned to the rightful owners in Fiscal Year 2006 from 1.929 million accounts

    Total of at least $32.877 billion is currently being safeguarded by state treasurers and other agencies for 117 million accounts.

    Claims can be made into perpetuity in most cases - even by heirs.

    "There's more coffee in the pot than there is tea in the cup" Reverend Jesse Jackson on number of teabaggers vs number of black voters

    by second gen on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:32:35 AM PDT

    •  those are usually (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Philpm, QuestionAuthority

      Gov't assets not privately held. I was on that list in Ohio once for a 403b account from when I worked in county government.

      •  Not true. I was on that list for $75 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        burrow owl, Mayfly

        for a bank account that I opened for my daughter when she was about 8 years old. I opened it, and never did anything with it. I thought it would just collect interest. The bank policy was to close an account after so much inactivity (I didn't know that, it was a savings account, after all) so they closed it, and placed the money with the state.

        "There's more coffee in the pot than there is tea in the cup" Reverend Jesse Jackson on number of teabaggers vs number of black voters

        by second gen on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 09:05:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Also from that link I cited: (0+ / 0-)

          What is unclaimed property?

          Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler's checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.

          "There's more coffee in the pot than there is tea in the cup" Reverend Jesse Jackson on number of teabaggers vs number of black voters

          by second gen on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 09:07:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  No, it's mostly private property. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        second gen

        Bank accounts, insurance proceeds, etc.

  •  Banks and Insurance Companies (4+ / 0-)

    have at least 3/4ths of Columbus on their payroll, including the Supreme Court. Whenever I hear OConner talking about what a balanced, non-partisan court it has been even though it is (was) unanymously Republican, I throw things at the tv or radio.

  •  I voted (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Philpm, Mayfly

    but I wish I'd known who to vote for in the court races.

    Please set up voter guides. I'd love to share them with family in Bula, especially for non-partisan court races.

  •  From reading the ruling... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    burrow owl

    ...I'm gonna have to agree with the majority here.

    13. Roberta Stayrook lawfully cashed Plaintiff's exhibits one, three[,] and four for which she was the owner or co-owner.

    So, we know that she cashed all the other deposit checks... but not the magical #2 which had the plaintiff as the co-owner?

    Also, the bank doesn't require surrender of the original document, so the original document isn't by itself, proof.  The bank she's trying to collect from isn't even the issuing bank, that bank was bought years ago.  The defendant never destroyed the records... they never actually possessed the records.

    This is exactly the situation this law was passed to address.  Your problem is in the legislature, not the judiciary, here.  Defendant should have succeeded on their original motion for summary judgment.

    •  You missed the point on that (0+ / 0-)

      Staybrook COULD NOT cash the fourth one, it was issued to Spiller and payable to her on the death of Staybrook. The only question was whether SPILLER had cashed it.

      •  Couldn't she? (0+ / 0-)

        All we know is that the original certificate was (presumably) taken out by Staybrook, and renewed every year.  For all we know, when it expired, they cashed it out or it was renewed under different terms (remember, this is a no-surrender document, you keep the old copy.)  All Spiller said is that she never deposited it, but this doesn't really clarify things given that presumably Staybrook took it out in the first place.

        The fact that there was never any 1099 reporting on this seems to cement the fact it was cashed out years ago.  Recall, Spiller originally believed none of them had been cashed out, but it was later determined all, with the possible exception of the one in question, had been.

        This is all kind of moot for the legal interpretation, as the court dismisses it on other grounds, but I think it's quite likely the money had actually been collected years ago, thus it's hardly a miscarriage of justice.

  •  Doubtless this will be an interesting precedent (0+ / 0-)

    for anyone who gets foreclosed upon in the State of Ohio, by a bank who doesn't have the note.

  •  Thanks nt (0+ / 0-)

    October is breast cancer awareness month.

    by J Brunner Fan on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 03:04:31 PM PDT

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