Archives for 2011

Thompson Discusses the Smoking Ban

Maurice Thompson, legal counsel and director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, discusses a Franklin County judge’s decision in favor of the Columbus-area bar Zeno’s, which had been cited with $30,000-plus in fines for breaking the statewide smoking ban. This is the second of four videos.

Thompson Discusses the Smoking Ban

Maurice Thompson, legal counsel and director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, discusses a Franklin County judge’s decision in favor of the Columbus-area bar Zeno’s, which had been cited with $30,000-plus in fines for breaking the statewide smoking ban. This is the third of four videos.

Thompson Discusses the Smoking Ban

Maurice Thompson, legal counsel and director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, discusses a Franklin County judge’s decision in favor of the Columbus-area bar Zeno’s, which had been cited with $30,000-plus in fines for breaking the statewide smoking ban. This is the fourth of four videos.

Ohio Issue 2 Town Hall Forum

View the opening statement delivered by Maurice Thompson on October 19, 2009 during the Ohio Issue 2 town hall forum.

The Stowers Tell Their Story

Jacqueline and John Stowers talk about their lives before and after a police raid of their home in LaGrange, Ohio in an interview with Maurice Thompson.

Ohio Voters Approve Health Care Freedom Amendment

On Nov. 8, 2011, Ohio voters voiced their strong opposition to overbearing and invasive health care mandates by passing the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment with 66% of the vote.  Drafted by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, the amendment preserves the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.

 

Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about this measure.

Manna Storehouse appeals to the Ohio Supreme Court

On July 21, 2011, Manna Storehouse and the Stowers family, notoriously raided by a Health and Agriculture Department-led SWAT team for not maintaining a “retail food establishment” in operating their small, private-membership organic food cooperative in LaGrange, Ohio, moved the Supreme Court to protect their rights.

The Stowers argue that the state’s imposition on their property rights and right to earn a living require the utmost scrutiny, and must be protected. They further argue that requiring government permission and licensure to operate their safe private cooperative converts state government to one of unlimited powers, transgressing the limits of state power, while violating their rights.

1851 Center Director Maurice Thompson noted “this case represents a paradigmatic struggle over the role of government in our lives: may government require an onerous-to-acquire permission slip to engage in the most of basic human activities, merely by waiving the banner of ‘public health’ (which can justify anything), or do property rights, and the right to use one’s property to earn a living in particular, still matter?”

Case Story

The  1851 Center for Constitutional Law took legal action on December 19th, 2008 against the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Lorain County Health Department for violating the constitutional rights of John and Jacqueline Stowers of LaGrange, Ohio. The Stowers operate an organic food cooperative called Manna Storehouse. ODA and Lorain County Health Department agents forcefully raided their home and unlawfully seized the family’s personal food supply, cell phones and personal computers. The legal center seeks to halt future similar raids. The complaint was filed in Lorain County Court of Common Pleas.

“The use of these police state tactics on a peaceful family is simply unacceptable,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “Officers rushed into the Stowers’ home with guns drawn and held the family – including ten young children – captive for six hours. This outrageous case of bureaucratic overreach must be addressed.”

The 1851 Center argues the right to buy food directly from local farmers; distribute locally-grown food to neighbors; and pool resources to purchase food in bulk are rights that do not require a license. In addition, the right of peaceful citizens to be free from paramilitary police raids, searches and seizures is guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14, Article 1 of the Ohio Constitution.

“The Stowers’ constitutional rights were violated over grass-fed cattle, pastured chickens and pesticide-free produce,”  Thompson said. “Ohioans do not need a government permission slip to run a family farm and co-op, and should not be subjected to raids when they do not have one. This legal action will ensure the ODA understands and respects Ohioans’ rights.”

On the morning of December 1, 2008, law enforcement officers forcefully entered the Stowers’ residence, without first announcing they were police or stating the purpose of the visit. With guns drawn, officers swiftly and immediately moved to the upstairs of the home, finding ten children in the middle of a home-schooling lesson. Officers then moved Jacqueline Stowers and her children to their living room where they were held for more than six hours.

Such are raids are beyond the scope of the purely administrative authority delegated to ODA and county health departments. In enforcing licensure laws, these agencies are only permitted to contract for routine enforcement services. Forceful raids and sweeping searches and seizures are not routine, and exceed the authority granted to ODA and county health departments.

The 1851 Center sought an injunction against similar future raids, and a declaration that such licensure laws are unconstitutional as applied the Stowers and individuals like them.

There has never been a complaint filed against Manna Storehouse or the Stowers related to the quality or healthfulness of the food distributed through the co-op. The 1851 Center will defend the Stowers from any criminal charges related to the raid.

Corsi v. Ohio Elections Commission

 

In an apparent retaliatory action against an outspoken critic, the Geauga County Board of Elections charged independent blogger Ed Corsi with violating campaign finance laws. The elections board forwarded a complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC), where Corsi faces fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Corsi’s blog, http://www.geaugaconstitutionalcouncil.org, is critical of local government and political officials, including Geauga County Board of Elections Member Edward Ryder. Ryder is chairman of the Geauga County Republican Party. Specifically, Corsi publishes a politically “most unwanted list” critical of several officials he refers to as “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only). Corsi’s website and his blogger pseudonym, “Geauga Constitutional Council (GCC)”, are not registered political organizations. They do not coordinate with political campaigns. And, Corsi personally pays for all costs associated with the website and subsequent printed material.

Corsi, political blogger, is being charged with failing to register with the state as a political action committee prior to criticizing local government officials.

“This case has the potential to severely limit free speech in Ohio,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “Should independent bloggers in Ohio be subject to registration, political disclosure laws, and fines simply because they discuss Ohio politics, and are critical of certain politicians? The Constitution says otherwise.”

“When applied to Corsi’s activities, the law violates the First Amendment right to anonymous political speech,” said Thompson. “It places an impermissible prior restraint on core political speech. And, it applies an overbroad regulation and/or prohibition on political speech that is not express advocacy.”

 

Partners in Action

The Rutherford Institute

 

Case Timeline

August 3, 2010: Geauga County Board of Elections Files Complaint Against Critic

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and The Rutherford Institute, non-profit legal advocacy firms, filed arguments with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC)  on behalf of Corsi. The legal organizations argue the elections board improperly and unconstitutionally applied campaign finance law to Corsi’s activities. Further, the board’s complaint infringes upon Corsi’s First Amendment right to criticize his government.

The elections board based their complaint on O.R.C. 3517.20(A)(2), which states that no entity shall publish against a candidate without full disclosure of their name and address; this disclosure must appear in a “conspicuous place.” The 1851 Center believes this action overreaches the application of the law and violates the freedom of alternative media, such as independent political bloggers.

April 28, 2011: Ohio Elections Commission Hears Case of Political Blogger From Geauga County 

On April 28, the 1851 Center argued the case of Ed Corsi to the Ohio Elections Commission. The OEC concluded that because some friends and allies assisted Corsi in handing out pamphlets, the efforts of these individuals rendered them a “Political Action Committee,” even though they spent no funds in supporting or opposing candidates, and coordinated with no campaigns.  Any Ohioans designated as a PAC must register with the state prior to engaging in political speech, and must comply with onerous reporting requirements.

The 1851 Center argues the law under which Corsi is being charged is not only vague in language, but violates his right to speak anonymously and is an unconstitutional prior restraint on core political speech. Meanwhile, Ohio’s Constitution contains broad protections for speech and press that afford new media the same protections as the mainstream press . 

June 24, 2011: 1851 Center Challenges Constitutionality of Ohio Campaign Finance Law

On June 24, the 1851 Center filed a notice of appeal in the case of Ed Corsi.  The 1851 Center argues that the law under which Corsi is being charged is not only vague in language, but violates his right to speak anonymously, is an unconstitutional prior restraint on core political speech, and violates freedom of association.  Meanwhile, Ohio’s Constitution contains broad protections for speech and press that afford new media the same protections as the mainstream press.

“The right to criticize one’s government cannot be conditioned on that government’s prior permission,” according to 1851 Center Director Maurice Thompson.  “Under the Ohio Elections Commission’s decision, every tea party group, every protest, and every signature-gathering or pamphleteering effort in the state is a Political Action Committee that must register with the state or face $1,000 fines, and even apolitical associations run this risk, if associating with those engaged in political speech.”  Said Thompson, “This ruling isn’t an aberration – – it represents the outward limit of a corrupt philosophy that prohibits the average Ohioan from fully engaging in political debates.”

For Corsi’s notice of appeal, click here.

September 2, 2011: 1851 Center Files Merit Brief with Common Pleas Court

The 1851 Center filed a Merit Brief with the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, arguing that reporting and disclosure requirements violate the free speech rights of internet bloggers.  The brief can be found here. 

September 23, 2011: 1851 Center Files Reply to the Ohio Elections Commission Case Brief

The 1851 Center disputes the state’s assertion that any combination of two or more persons discussing political ideas constitutes a PAC, which must be registered with the state. To read the Center’s Reply Brief click here.

May 16, 2012: Oral Arguments Will Occur at the Court of Appeals in the 10th District of Ohio

 

  

  

 

May 3, 2010: Geauga County Board of Elections Complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission

April 28, 2011: Ohio Election Commission’s Decision

June 24, 2011: Corsi’s Notice of Appeal to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court 

September 2, 2011: Corsi Opening Brief

September 23, 2011:  Corsi Reply Brief

February 7, 2012: Corsi Appellant Brief 

February 21, 2012: Corsi Appellant Reply Brief 

 

 

Signatures Submitted to Place Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment on November Ballot

Columbus, OH – Supporters today will deliver more than 546,000 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State to place the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment on the November ballot.   The amendment would add a 21st Section to Ohio’s Bill of Rights “to preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.” [Read more…]

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Right of Individuals to Challenge Federal Laws Interfering with State Sovereignty

In Bond v. United States, the Supreme Court held that private individuals – not only the states – had standing to challenge federal laws as violating state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.  In this case, a woman had been criminally prosecuted by the federal government under a statute implementing an inernational treaty regulating chemical weapons.   [Read more…]