3517.156 Probable cause hearing.

(A) If a complaint filed with the Ohio elections commission is to receive an expedited hearing pursuant to section 3517.154 of the Revised Code, a panel of at least three members of the commission shall hold a hearing on the complaint to determine whether there is probable cause to refer the matter to the full commission for a hearing under section 3517.155 of the Revised Code. Not more than one-half of the members of a panel shall be affiliated with the same political party. The chairperson of the commission shall call for the selection of a panel, as needed, and shall select the members of the panel by lot.

(B)

(1) Except as otherwise provided in section 3517.154 of the Revised Code and divisions (B)(2) and (3) of this section, the panel shall hold one expedited hearing on a complaint forwarded to it by the commission for an expedited hearing in accordance with this division. If a complaint is filed on or after the sixtieth day prior to a primary or special election or on or after the ninetieth day prior to the general election, but not later than the day of the primary, special, or general election to which the complaint relates, the hearing shall be held not later than two business days after the determination required to be made under division (A) of section 3517.154 of the Revised Code is made, unless the panel has good cause to hold the hearing after that time, in which case it shall hold the hearing not later than seven business days after that determination is made. All members of the panel shall be present before any official action may be taken, and a majority vote of the panel is required for any official action.

(2) The commission shall hold a hearing on a complaint that is filed prior to the periods of time specified in division (B)(1) of this section, or filed after the date of the election to which the complaint relates, at the times specified for hearing complaints in section 3517.155 of the Revised Code.

(3) The deadlines provided for in division (B)(1) of this section may be extended by agreement of all parties to the complaint but shall not be extended beyond the deadlines provided for in division (A) of section 3517.155 of the Revised Code.

(C) At the expedited hearing held under division (B)(1) of this section, the panel shall make only one of the following determinations:

(1) There is no probable cause to believe that the failure to comply with or the violation of a law alleged in the complaint has occurred. If the panel so determines, it shall dismiss the complaint.

(2) There is probable cause to believe that the failure to comply with or the violation of a law alleged in the complaint has occurred. If the panel so determines, it shall refer the complaint to the full commission, and the commission shall hold a hearing on the complaint under section 3517.155 of the Revised Code not later than ten days after the complaint is referred to it by the panel.

(3) The evidence is insufficient for the panel to make a determination under division (C)(1) or (2) of this section and further investigation of the complaint is necessary. If the panel so determines, it immediately shall request that an investigatory attorney investigate the complaint, and an investigatory attorney shall make an investigation in order to produce sufficient evidence upon which to decide the matter. If the panel requests that an investigatory attorney make an investigation, the complaint shall be referred to the full commission, and the commission shall hold a hearing on the complaint under section 3517.155 of the Revised Code.

(D) No panel of the commission shall impose a fine.

(E) If the panel dismisses the complaint under division (C)(1) of this section, the person who made the complaint may petition the full commission to reconsider the dismissal at a hearing under section 3517.155 of the Revised Code. A petition for reconsideration shall be filed not later than two business days after the dismissal of the complaint. The commission shall render its decision on the petition not later than three business days after receiving the petition. If the petition for reconsideration is granted, the commission shall hold a hearing on the complaint under section 3517.155 of the Revised Code not later than five business days after granting the petition.

If the petition for reconsideration is not granted, the commission shall order the person who filed the complaint to pay reasonable attorney's fees and to pay the costs of the panel that dismissed the complaint as determined by a majority of the members of the commission. The costs paid to the commission under this division shall be deposited into the Ohio elections commission fund.

(F) As used in this section, "expedited hearing" includes an automatic expedited hearing as prescribed in section 3517.154 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 12-22-1999