Carol Schmitmeyer v. Ohio Department of Agriculture

Headnotes

H1: Admin Law > Judicial Review > Standard of review > General Overview

Ohio Revised Code §2506.04

H2: Administrative Law > Judicial Review > Standards of Review > Deference to Agency Statutory Interpretation

When a common pleas court reviews an order of an administrative agency under Ohio Revised Code §119.12, the court must look at the entire record and determine if reliable, probative, and substantial evidence supports the agency’s order and if the order is in accordance with law.  The court  must give deference to the agency’s resolution, but does not have to treat the findings of the agency as conclusive. The court can conduct a “de novo” review on questions of law, so as to determine if the administrative order is in accordance with law.

H3: Administrative Law > Judicial Review > Standards of Review > Substantial Evidence

Under O.R.C §119.12, the court of common pleas may affirm the order of an administrative agency, if on appeal the court evaluates all of the evidence as to witness credibility, the probative nature of the evidence, and the weight given to the evidence, and finds that the order is supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and is in accordance with the law. If the order is not supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and is not in accordance with law, the court is authorized to reverse, vacate, or modify the order. An appeal of an administrative order is not a “de novo” review by the court of common pleas, instead the court is limited to examining the record of the administrative hearing and any other evidence the court allows in upon its discretion. 

H4: Constitutional Law > Bill of Rights > Fundamental Rights > Takings

The powers of an administrative agency is a legislative function that cannot be interfered with by the courts, unless the power is exercised in an arbitrary, confiscatory, and unreasonable manner in violation of constitutional guarantees. 

H5: Administrative Law > Agency Rulemaking > General Overview                                               Business Compliance > Governments > Agriculture > Distribution > Processing

Under O.R.C §3707.372, the Ohio Department of Health is granted regulatory authority over the production, transportation, and processing of milk. 

H6: Governments > Legislation > Interpretation

Generally, a plain meaning can be applied to terms in a statute. 

H7: Commercial Law (UCC) > Sales (Article 2) > General Overview

O.R.C §1302.01

 

Summary of Case

Procedural Posture: Appellant filed an appeal from the decision rendered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture on September 28, 2006 at an administrative hearing to revoke Appellant’s Grade A milk producers license. Director of the ODA issued the revocation based on the conclusion that Appellant was illegally selling raw milk. 

Overview: Appellant and husband operate a small dairy farm in Ohio and possessed a Grade A milk producer license issued by the ODA, but did not have a dairy processor license. Appellant and husband sold part of their herd to other owners in a “herd-share” agreement that required an owner to pay a flat fee per share, and an additional “boarding fee” per week. Herd share owners were provided with a gallon of raw milk per week, in exchange for the collection of the weekly “boarding fee.”

Appellant contends that the Director of the ODA’s decision is not based on correct interpretation of Ohio Revised Code 917. Furthermore, Appellant contends that certain provisions under the law are vague, including the interpretation of the terms “sale” and “sold,” and the enforcement practices of the Department based on these statutory violations. 

Outcome: The Court held that the ODA Director’s decisions was not supported by substantial and probative evidence, and was thus not in accordance with law. Thus, the Court vacated the order of revocation issued by the Director and enjoined the ODA from similar regulatory action against the Appellant. 

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