Lower Court’s Decision that Rule Was Applied Arbitrarily Stands

Oct 10, 2008

An Ohio state appeals court has dispensed with an appeal by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, finding that its challenge of a lower court ruling in favor of a student-athlete in an eligibility matter was now moot
Dr. Joseph Dankoff filed a complaint for injunctive relief on January 30, 2008 on behalf of his minor son, Sam Dankoff. Dankoff alleged that Sam attended a private, nonsectarian middle school and then attended Archbishop Hoban High School for grades nine through eleven. He further claimed that Sam attended the public high school in his district of residence for a single semester in 12th grade, but that he chose to re-enroll at Archbishop Hoban to complete his senior year. Sam, who had participated on Archbishop Hoban’s bowling team during the previous three years, also wanted to participate during his senior year. Dankoff alleged that he was not permitted to do so under the authority of OHSAA’s Bylaw 4-7-2, which limits the ability of certain transfer students to participate in athletics. He requested temporary and permanent injunctive relief “enjoining Defendants from preventing Sam Dankoff from participating on the Archbishop Hoban High School bowling team.”
The trial court granted an injunction on February 5, 2008, concluding that OHSAA’s interpretation of its bylaw with respect to Sam was arbitrary. The trial court quoted the defendants: “The very purpose of the OHSAA – its ‘business purpose’ — is to assure a level playing field for all participants.”
“Nothing in this court’s opinion stands in their way,” wrote the trial court. “On these limited facts, there is no harm to other OHSAA students and Hoban’s bowling coach will decide if Sam actually gets to play.”
The OSHAA appealed the order.
In its review, the appeals court noted that the trial court’s order “accomplished a single purpose: it enjoined OHSAA and Archbishop Hoban from preventing Sam from participating on the bowling team during his senior year. Sam has now graduated, and there is no live controversy surrounding his participation in high school athletics. This appeal is therefore moot. See Sandison v. Michigan High School Athletic Assoc. (C.A.6 1995), 64 F.3d 1026, 1030 (concluding that the portion of the trial court’s order that enjoined two high school athletes’ participation during their senior years was moot by virtue of their graduation).
“Nor is this a case in which this Court may exercise jurisdiction over issues that are capable of repetition, but evading review, which may be done ‘when the challenged action is too short in duration to be fully litigated before its cessation or expiration, and there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again.’ State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Louden (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d 61, 64, 2001 Ohio 268, 741 N.E.2d 517. Sam has graduated, and the possibility of further litigation between the parties is foreclosed. See Sandison, 64 F.3d at 1029-30.”
Joseph Dankoff, M.D v. Ohio High School Athletic Association, et al.; Ct. App. of Ohio, 9th App. Dist., Summit Co.; C. A. No. 24076, 2008 Ohio 4559; 2008 Ohio App. LEXIS 3857; 9/10/08
Attorneys of Record: (for appellants) Steven L. Craig. (for appellee) John N. Childs and Yong-Chang Tang


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