Case Details


Common Law Powers

Filing State



Ohio Supreme Court




State ex rel. Cordray v. Marshall, 123 Ohio St. 3d 229, 2009 Ohio 4986; 915 N.E.2d 633; 2009 Ohio LEXIS 2690 (2009)

Case Description

Defendant Rawlins shot and killed his wife’s lover, was convicted of murder and in 1997 received a sentence of 15 years in prison. He appealed and his conviction was upheld. In 2003, Rawlins filed a motion with Judge William Marshall for relief from judgment of conviction and sentence. Judge Marshall, who had not presided over the original trial, held a hearing and granted Rawlins’ motion, based on Rawlins’ argument that the jury should have been instructed on the lesser charges. The prosecuting attorney stated that the state had no objection. Judge Marshall accepted Rawlins’ plea of voluntary manslaughter, reduced his sentence to 10 years and released him from prison. In May 2005, the Attorney General sought from the county court of appeals a writ of prohibition to compel Judge Marshall to vacate his decision. The court of appeals granted the writ, and Rawlins was returned to prison. On appeal, Rawlins argued that the Attorney General had no standing to seek the writ of prohibition because he had not been asked to do so by the Governor or legislature, as required by state statute. The court held that when the state and federal constitutions were adopted, they were adopted with a recognition of established contemporaneous common-law principles; and they did not repudiate, but cherished, the established common law. (citing Ohio Supreme Court precedent.) In this case, nothing in the statute abrogates the Attorney General’s common law powers, which would allow him to bring this type of action. Citing NAAG’s Powers & Responsibilities book, the court held, “The exercise of this authority under the unique, limited facts of this case is consistent with the common-law powers of the majority of state attorneys general.”