Federal Court: University of Cincinnati Speech Restrictions on Students Permanently Enjoined

Students supporting “right to work” amendment cannot be arrested for discussing amendment and gathering signatures on campus

uofcinn1Cincinnati, OH – A federal court today permanently enjoined the University of Cincinnati’s blanket prohibition on student political speech on campus as a violation the First Amendment. The ruling, made by Judge Black of the Cincinnati division of the Southern District of Ohio, paves the way for a likely overhaul of many campus speech policies throughout the state and nation.

The ruling also permits members of the student group Young Americans for Liberty (“YAL”) to advocate and collect signatures for the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment on campus.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, which also drafted the Workplace Freedom Amendment, took up the students’ case and challenged UC’s policies after UC threatened to arrest student members of YAL if they attempted to gather signatures for the right-to-work cause on campus.

The lawsuit sought recognition that (1) the First Amendment applied to public university property, such as the University of Cincinnati; (2) signature-gathering for petition drives is a protected form of political speech; and (3) UC’s requirement that all UC students register up to 15 days ahead of time before engaging in any political speech on campus violates the First Amendment.

In his June 12 decision preliminarily enjoining UC policies, Judge Black emphasized “It is simply unfathomable that a UC student needs to give the University advance notice of an intent to gather signatures for a ballot initiative. There is no danger to public order arising out of students walking around campus with clipboards seeking signatures.”

In that decision, the Court further ordered UC to craft “more narrowly tailored regulations that regulate student expressive activities . . . only as are necessary to serve a compelling government interest.”

In response, newly crafted University of Cincinnati speech policies permit unfettered free political speech, including signature gathering, by students, without notice to the University, for groups smaller than 25, and regulates only groups of 5,000 or more.

Today’s final order permanently enjoins UC from returning to its old policies, or any variation thereof. The order, an across-the-board rebuke to UC’s policies, enjoins UC from:

  • “Requiring prior notification for the solicitation by students of signatures for petitions;”
  • “Prohibiting all solicitation by students of signatures for petitions in any designated public forum, including the Free Speech Area, the outdoor spaces described in the MainStreet Event Guide, and campus sidewalks;”
  • “Requiring that all student ‘demonstrations, picketing, or rallies’ occur only in the Free Speech Area;”
  • “Requiring 5 to 15 days prior notification for any and all student ‘demonstrations, picketing, or rallies’ without differentiations;”
  • “Imposing or enforcing any policy restricting student speech in any designated public forum, including the Free Speech Area, the outdoors spaces described in the MainStreet Event Guide, and campus sidewalks, that is not individually and narrowly tailored to serve a compelling university interest.

“We are pleased that the federal court has resolved this matter in favor of free speech, and against government control of young minds. UC is an arm of the state that receives state and federal tax dollars since its inception, all in the name of ‘public education,’” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

“It was unwise, and ultimately unconstitutional, for UC to advance public education by shielding its students from actual education on public policy issues that affect all Ohioans. Fortunately, the First Amendment allows us to protect the education of UC students from their educators; it further protects the right of students to calmly address facts and arguments that UC would rather suppress, and to do so without prior permission.”

The 1851 Center and UC students endured four months of procedural tactics, harassing depositions, and frivolous daily letters by UC’s attorneys, after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine authorized $200,000 in state funds to the private law firm of Crabbe Brown, a campaign contributor of Mr. DeWine’s, to defend the clearly unconstitutional University of Cincinnati policies. The 1851 Center represents clients at no cost.

Multiple Ohio colleges and universities maintain speech restrictions similar in kind, although not as extensive, as those of the University of Cincinnati – – the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently named UC’s speech policies the worst in the nation.

The Court’s preliminary and permanent injunction orders can be viewed HERE.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a non-profit, non-partisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse. The 1851 Center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, voting rights, regulation, taxation, and search and seizures.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE; thefire.org) is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities.

Young Americans for Liberty is a national student membership organization dedicated to recruiting, training, educating, and mobilizing students on the ideals of liberty and the Constitution.


August 26, 2012: The News Record: Court reverses UC free speech policy

August 23, 2012: Huffington Post: District Court: Campuses Can’t Quarantine Free Speech

August 23, 2012: Columbus Dispatch: Judge blocks university’s restrictions on speech

August 23, 2012: Cincinnati.com: Judge bans UC’s free speech policy

August 23, 2012: Daily Caller: U. of Cincinnati loses free speech lawsuit — is another Ohio college next?

August 23, 2012: Ohio Liberty Coalition: Federal court stops University of Cincinnati from restricting students’ free speech, president unexpectedly resigns

Ohio Candidates Can’t Hide Behind Anti-Tax-Pledge Statute

antipledgestatTo hold their elected officials accountable, a conglomerate of conservative, libertarian, and tea-party groups representing Ohio taxpayers have recently devised two pledges for state legislative candidates. These pledges are directed toward educating Ohio voters as to who can be counted on to limit onerous taxation and regulation.

Specifically, the taxpayers call upon legislative candidates to pledge that they (1) will not vote in a manner inconsistent with health care freedom; and (2) will note vote to impose a severance tax on fledgling oil and gas production in Ohio.

As citizens began to ask candidates to sign this pledge, something interesting – – beyond a policy debate – – happened: some Republican candidates began to balk at the idea of a pledge.

Rather than take a stance, some candidates have even responded that the request that they take the pledge is illegal, and that the person asking them to sign it could be fined out of house and home.

While it’s unclear how vastly this view is held amongst the Ohio Republican Caucus, or Democrats, for that matter, two things are clear: (1) it’s not a violation of a law to ask one’s candidate to sign the pledge; and (2) the statute is, itself, flagrantly unconstitutional.

Read the full analysis HERE.

Federal Court Enjoins Shaker Heights from Blocking Message of Tax-Increase Opponents

shtuCleveland, OH – Yesterday a federal court enjoined the City of Shaker Heights from further harassment of Shaker Heights residents city officials silenced through threat of a frivolous trademark lawsuit. The threat had come in retaliation for the citizens’ opposition to the City of Shaker Heights’ attempt to increase income taxes on residents through an August 7 vote.

The Northern District of Ohio Judge Christopher Boyko ordered that the City “shall take no action which interferes in any way with Plaintiffs’ use of the Shaker Heights Taxpayers Union Logo. . .

This Order comes in response to legal action filed on behalf of the Shaker Heights Taxpayers Union (“SHTU”). This legal action included a demand for an immediate injunction prohibiting city officials from engaging in any further threats, intimidation, or retaliation in response to the taxpayers’ legitimate exercise of their constitutional rights

Shaker Heights resident Mark Zetzer formed the SHTU to advocate against the City’s placement of a personal income tax increase on the August 7 ballot, arguing that Shaker Heights taxes were already the highest in the state. In addition Mr. Zetzer designed for the group a logo that parodies the City of Shaker Heights logo by replacing the City logo’s leaves with dollar signs, to represent City officials’ use of taxation as a first-resort (see the logo below).

Even though federal courts have repeatedly confirmed that the First Amendment trumps trademark law in the field of political speech, just as Mr. Zetzer’s message was beginning to gain traction, the City of Shaker Heights sent Mr. Zetzer a “Demand to Cease and Desist,” threatening that “[f]ailure to stop [use of the SHTU logo] will result in the City taking legal action to protect its trademark, including a request for an award of damages.”

In response, SHTU had been forced to stop using the logo in its campaign.

“This case featured an appalling attempt by city officials to silence anyone who stands in the way of their access to more of Shaker Heights residents’ earnings,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “The Court’s Order preserves the rights of Ohioans to effectively criticize their local governments, particularly as they push for more taxes, and further acknowledges that political speech parodying one’s government cannot be abridged.”

Added Thompson, “Conducting frivolous legal activity on city time is not just unethical – – it’s also a waste of public funds. If the City simply abstained from paying government employees to engage in activities such as instituting official-appearing legal threats to silence opposing viewpoints in the heat of an election, there would likely be no need to impose additional taxes on Shaker Heights residents.”

The logos at issue in this case are below:

L: City of Shaker Heights logo; R: Shaker Heights Taxpayers Union logo

 


July 27, 2012: Cleveland.com: Judge says Shaker Heights can’t stop anti-tax group’s use of logo

 

The 1851 Center’s Complaint can be viewed here.

The Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is available here.

Obamacare: The Way Forward in Ohio

Friends,

You, like me, were no doubt inundated with punditry on the fallout of the Obamacare ruling last Thursday and Friday.

We didn’t follow suit. I did not found the 1851 Center to gab. We exist to advance liberty and limit government, whether we’re taking the lead, or simply supporting you.

Of course, we’re not enamored with the Chief Justice’s placement of his image, or “the institute of the Court,” above adherence to applicable law. And we do think there’s a lesson for you in that by squandering the opportunity to place a constitutionalist on the Court, George W. Bush handed over the matches that Barack Obama is using to burn down your rights. Meanwhile, we’re not enamored with the prospect that the federal government may force you to buy any commercial product, and impose a tax if you refuse.

But you’ve heard plenty about the decision by now.

So now that the smoke has cleared, let’s get back to business.

First things first: I’ve heard some rumblings from tea party soothsayers to our always-shaky Attorney General that the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment has now lost its meaning.

The Status of Ohio’s Health Care Freedom Amendment (“Issue 3”)

As I’ve said many times in the past, if you supported the Health Care Freedom Amendment on the sole grounds that it would, without more, influence the Supreme Court’s interpretation of federal power, then you were reaching. But you were also partially correct: 5 Justices ruled that the individual mandate was not “proper,” as required by the Necessary and Proper Clause, because it transgresses principles of state sovereignty. To the extent that the Amendment could have influenced the Court’s reasoning, it did its job – – it was Justice Roberts who did not do his.

However, this was, at best, only a minor purpose of the Amendment. As to the others, the Amendment remains fully effective. Let me remind you of those purposes, by quoting from campaign materials that were distributed early in 2011:

Passage of the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment necessarily provides protections that will be effective as against state and local government. This means that Ohio and its local governments would be prohibited from enacting health care and health insurance mandates, a single-payer system, or any regulatory provisions equivalent to health care systems in Massachusetts, Vermont, Canada, or the United Kingdom.

Moreover, even in the face of a valid federal health insurance mandate, Ohio governments would be prohibited from enacting regulations above and beyond the federal baseline.

Finally, the Amendment prohibits Ohio state and local governments from enacting any regulation that has the effect of significantly impeding health care or health care insurance choices, or significantly raising costs of health care or health care insurance.

Passage of the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment has the capacity to protect Ohioans from the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. By placing health care freedom in the Ohio Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment creates a fundamental constitutional right that Ohioans can use to defend themselves from invasive health care regulations, including the PPACA.

The Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment could be influenced by outcomes in pending litigation challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act. If the mandate is found to be a valid exercise of the Commerce Clause, Necessary and Proper Clause, or taxing power, litigation will ensue under the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment to determine whether Ohioans have a fundamental right to be free from the strictures of health care mandates. Important protections in the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment, other than those related to the mandating of health insurance are not affected by current PPACA litigation.

As you can see the Amendment leaves us with many tools to preserve health care freedom in Ohio. And the Supreme Court decision actually provides additional tools to limit government. And with your help, we intend to use them.

Here’s the path forward for stopping Obamcare in Ohio:

Step 1: Stop Ohio from Implementing a state-based Obamacare Exchange.

Here’s the bottom line. Obamacare is unsustainable if states force it to operate through federal exchanges, which are considerably “weaker” than state exchanges.

There’s no easy way to put this, but Case Western law professor Jonathan Adler and Cato scholar Michael Cannon do an admirable job:

“The Act’s ’employer mandate’ taxes employers up to $3,000 per employee if they fail to offer required health benefits. But that tax kicks in only if their employees receive tax credits or subsidies to purchase a health plan through a state-run insurance ‘exchange.’ . . . The federal government might create exchanges in states that decline, but it cannot offer credits through its own exchanges. And where there can be no credits, there is nothing to trigger that $3,000 tax.”

This law will collapse without the employer mandate and tax credits, just as it would have without the individual mandate.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal knows this. Just one day after the decision, he reiterated that his state would steer clear of a state exchange: “Here in Louisiana we have not applied for the grants, we have not accepted many of these dollars, we’re not implementing the exchanges,” Jindal said. “We don’t think it makes any sense to implement Obamacare in Louisiana. We’re going to do what we can to fight it.”

Will John Kasich muster this courage? It hasn’t happened yet.

But here’s some good news: we’ve consistently made this argument to the administration since it accepted the federal grant to create a state-run exchange. And the administration hasn’t moved on the issue since.

In fact, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor told reporters Thursday that the state is leaning against developing an Ohio exchange, relying instead on whatever system is implemented by the federal government: “At this point, the governor and I don’t see how it is in the best interest of Ohioans to have a state-run exchange,” Taylor said. “Quite frankly, we don’t even see where the additional money would come from in order for us to run that exchange.”

In addition to inviting Obamacare into Ohioans’ lives, a state-run exchange, the administration acknowledges, would cost about $43 million annually, versus about $1.6 million to plug into the federal exchange.

And guess who would pay for that? You.

Here’s some additional good news. If the Supreme Court’s ruling were to cause the Administration to change course, we have the trump card: the state constitution. We drafted the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment with full knowledge of the need to stop Ohio from implementing a state exchange.

Remember, under the Amendment, no state law can (A) indirectly compel any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system; (B) prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance; or (C) impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance. And no state can implement an Obamacare exchange without doing these exact things.

So if you helped make the Health Care Freedom Amendment happen, you’ve done your job.

But the left is banging the drums of war, with former Governor (and now Obama co-chairman) Ted Strickland and Progress Ohio asserting “It is simply time to enact the law and end the politics,” and “[Taylor] needs to stop talking and go to work and pull together the kind of efforts that’s going to be necessary to get these exchanges up and running.” And some weak-kneed Senate Republicans are already caving as well.

So here’s the next step: Stop the Kasich Administration from rubber-stamping a state-run exchange. That’s a political job – – your job.

And my job is to defeat them in court if you’re unsuccessful.

Either way: there will be no state-run Obamacare exchange in Ohio. And this alone will hasten the Act’s demise.

Read the 1851 Center’s explanation of why a state-run Obamacare exchange is bad policy, and violates the Ohio Constitution, here.

Step 2: Stop Medicaid Expansion in Ohio.

Are you concerned about federal spending? Want to hold on to the money you earn? This is your chance to make a difference.

First, Ohio just argued — AND WON — the right to not be coerced by Obamacare to expand Medicaid coverage at state taxpayer expense. This is the part of the case where the Supreme Court actually ruled in our favor. Why would we argue for this autonomy, only to squander it, in the name of the welfare state?

Second, half of Obamacare’s trillions in new federal spending comes through Medicaid expansion. Refusal to expand Medicaid blocks half of the law’s new entitlement spending.

Yet Kasich administration officials said they do not know if they will expand the Medicaid program yet.

This shouldn’t even be a close call.

Obamacare authorizes states to provide free cradle-to-grave health care, using your wallet, for your neighbor making as much as $30,650 per year (this is above the state’s median salary, by the way).

If Ohio were to go ahead and expand Medicaid, Ohio’s portion of the costs would soon balloon to $675 million per year covering roughly another 700,000 residents each year (perspective: that’s either a 5 percent tax hike or reduction in other services).

Think your taxes are too high now? This is your chance to draw a line in the sand.

Step 3: Mount a rights-based challenge to the mandate.

Amongst all of the hand-wringing over the legal conclusion that the federal government has the power to impose a mandate through the back door, something important has continuously been lost: even if the Government has the power, there may be a constitutionally-protected right to be free from such a mandate.

Just because the taxing power allows for the taxing of flag burning, for instance, doesn’t mean the First Amendment doesn’t protect the right and defeat the otherwise lawful tax.

Courts have yet to address the Right to Privacy: The U.S. Supreme Court has held that medical records are constitutionally-protected from disclosure, yet the requirement to contract for health insurers necessarily compels a citizen to divulge private and personal records, along with blood and urine samples, to a private insurance corporation, or pay a fine.

Courts have yet to address Freedom of Association: The Supreme Court holds that “Freedom of Association. . . plainly presupposes the freedom not to associate,” yet those without insurance are forced to contract with insurance private insurance corporations.

And most importantly, Courts have yet to address the Substantive Due Process implications of the Health Care Freedom Amendment. The Fifth Amendment still protects certain liberty interests. Amongst these is the right to control one’s own body; the right to refuse medical treatment, and the right to direct the upbringing and education of one’s own children. The mandate deprives one who believes in an alternative form of health care from fully directing their own health care decisions: they may have to buy less organic food, get less acupuncture, and forfeit their health club membership in order to afford health insurance. Once we recognize the existence of a budget constraint, we see this loss of direction.

Through placing the Health Care Freedom Amendment in Ohio’s Bill of Rights, we’ve given ourselves the strongest claim in the nation for a fundamental right to be free from a one-size-fits-all individual health insurance mandate. And we intend to use it.

Let me close with this:

I am assuming that you, like me, never want any Ohioan to be led away in handcuffs for refuses to purchase federal-government-defined health insurance.

Moreover, I’m assuming that you’ve already rejected the paternalistic philosophy that leads some in government to believe that they know what you must buy even more than you do. And I’m assuming that you reject the collectivist underpinnings of the notion that you should be forced to purchase, as a taxpayer, the health care of your bad-habited neighbor who makes about the same as you do.

For those of us who so reject paternalism and collectivism, let me ask you this:

Are you just human cattle, being fattened up for the benefits of big government? Are you just plants in a garden, who can’t flourish without the master government gardener? Is the federal government, in the name of “public health,” entitled to a first mortgage over your life?

Or are you born free, with a right to run your own life that no political majority may take away?

You should have the power to make these choices. That’s what it means to be human and adult, much less American.

We’ve all got a lot of work to do. The 1851 Center will support you in this work, and we hope that you’ll support us as well.

In Liberty,

Maurice Thompson
Executive Director
1851 Center for Constitutional Law

Federal Court: University of Cincinnati Speech Restrictions on Students Unconstitutional

Students supporting “right to work” amendment cannot be arrested for discussing amendment and gathering signatures on campus

uofcinn1Cincinnati, OH – A federal court today ruled that the University of Cincinnati’s blanket prohibition on student political speech on campus violates the First Amendment. The ruling, made by Judge Black of the Cincinnati division of the Southern District of Ohio, paves the way for members of the student group Young Americans for Liberty (“YAL”) to advocate and collect signatures for the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment on campus.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, which also drafted the Workplace Freedom Amendment, took up the students’ case and challenged UC’s policies after UC threatened to arrest student members of YAL if they attempted to gather signatures for the right-to-work cause on campus.

The lawsuit sought recognition that (1) the First Amendment applied to public university property, such as the University of Cincinnati; (2) signature-gathering for petition drives is a protected form of political speech; and (3) UC’s requirement that all UC students register up to 15 days ahead of time before engaging in any political speech on campus violates the First Amendment.

In his decision, Judge Black emphasized “It is simply unfathomable that a UC student needs to give the University advance notice of an intent to gather signatures for a ballot initiative. There is no danger to public order arising out of students walking around campus with clipboards seeking signatures.” The order, an across-the-board rebuke to UC’s policies, enjoins UC from:

  • “Requiring prior notification for the solicitation by students of signatures for petitions;”
  • “Prohibiting all solicitation by students of signatures for petitions in any designated public forum, including the Free Speech Area, the outdoor spaces described in the MainStreet Event Guide, and campus sidewalks;”
  • “Requiring that all student ‘demonstrations, picketing, or rallies’ occur only in the Free Speech Area;”
  • “Requiring 5 to 15 days prior notification for any and all student ‘demonstrations, picketing, or rallies’ without differentiations;”
  • “Imposing or enforcing any policy restricting student speech in any designated public forum, including the Free Speech Area, the outdoors spaces described in the MainStreet Event Guide, and campus sidewalks, that is not individually and narrowly tailored to serve a compelling university interest.

The Court further ordered UC to craft “more narrowly tailored regulations that regulate student expressive activities . . . only as are necessary to serve a compelling government interest.” “UC is an arm of the state that has chased and received state and federal tax dollars since its inception, all in the name of ‘public education,'” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

“UC mistakenly seeks to advance its mission of public education by shielding its students from actual education on public policy issues that affect all Ohioans. Fortunately, the First Amendment allows us to protect the education of UC students from their educators; it further protects the right of students to calmly address facts and arguments that UC would rather suppress, and to do so without prior permission.”

The 1851 Center and UC students endured four months of procedural tactics, harassing depositions, and frivolous daily letters by UC’s attorneys, after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine authorized $200,000 in state funds to the private law firm of Crabbe Brown, a campaign contributor of Mr. DeWine’s, to defend the clearly unconstitutional University of Cincinnati policies. The 1851 Center represents clients at no cost.

Multiple Ohio colleges and universities maintain speech restrictions similar in kind, although not as extensive, as those of the University of Cincinnati – – the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently named UC’s speech policies the worst in the nation. However, these policies are suspect in light of the Court’s clear ruling.

 


June 12, 2012: Associated Press: Judge: Cincinnati school violated students’ rights

June 12, 2012: Cincinnati.com: Judge rejects UC protest policy; Ruling could set new standard for free speech on campus

June 12, 2012: F.I.R.E.: Federal Court: University of Cincinnati Free Speech Zone Violates First Amendment, ‘Cannot Stand’

June 13, 2012: Fox 19: Student political group wins injunction against U.C. speech restrictions

 

Read the Young Americans for Liberty v. UC, Complaint here.

Read the Young Americans for Liberty v. UC, Motion for Temporary Restraining Order here.

Read the Young Americans for Liberty v. UC, Motion for Partial Summary Judgment here.

Read the court’s decision here.

High Court Rebukes Attack on Cincinnati Charter Schools

CPS Deed Restrictions Against Charter and Private Schools Illegal, Cincinnati Charter Schools to Remain Open

Columbus – Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy of prohibiting the sale of unused available public school buildings to charter schools and private schools is unlawful and must end, today ruled the Supreme Court of Ohio. This decision rebuffs CPS efforts to shut down numerous successful charters schools in Cincinnati, and is a considerable victory for charter and private school operators throughout the state.

1851 Center for Constitutional Law represented Theodore Roosevelt Community School, a Cincinnati charter school CPS had sued to shut down. Theodore Roosevelt School had purchased an unused school building located in the Fairmount neighborhood, where all CPS schools are in academic emergency, and 80 percent of families are of minority status, and live in poverty. The school opened in August of 2010, and currently serves nearly 300 students and employs 45 staff members.

CPS attempted to enforce a deed restriction prohibiting the use of school buildings previously owned by CPS for use by a charter or private school. The 1851 Center asserted such restrictions are void by Ohio’s public policy in favor of school choice, and cheat taxpayers of sales revenue from the buildings.

The Court’s decision, authored by Justice Lanzinger, acknowledged held “. . . the inclusion of a deed restriction preventing the use of property for school purposes in the contract for sale of an unused school building is unenforceable as against public policy.” The Court added, “[t]he restriction, on its face, prevents the free use of property for education purposes . . . Furthermore, the restriction is not neutral; it seeks to thwart competition by providing that the restriction applies to all buyers except CPS itself.”

“The Court’s decision upholds a landmark ruling in favor of school choice in Ohio, and against adversarial school districts who attempt to block alternative schools’ right to exist,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson.

“Deed restrictions like the one struck down in this case were devised simply to stop new charter and private schools from opening in Cincinnati, so that CPS could retain students and protect its state funds. In its brief, CPS compares itself to a ‘gas station’ or ‘hotel’ that has a right to use hardball tactics against its competition. It seems to have forgotten that it’s a public school that exists to educate children, rather than amass revenue.”

The Court’s decision suggested promise for the 1851 Center’s overarching approach of using the doctrine “public policy” — the requirement that contract terms are subject to the public interest — to nullify government contract terms that attack school choice and reward special interests. While the Court acknowledged that the doctrine is narrow, it affirms 1851’s position that special scrutiny should apply to government contracts: “in this case, however, involving a contract between a private party and a political subdivision, there is a compelling reason to support application of the doctrine [of public policy].”

This additional ruling exposing CPS to the loss of millions of dollars in funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), which requires that school districts follow all state rules related to charter schools. The fate of this funding is still in dispute, in a second case brought by the 1851 Center and the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, still pending before Judge Ruehlman.


June 6, 2012: Cincinnati.com: Ohio court: CPS unfair to charters


All briefs in the case can be viewed here.

Oral Arguments from the case can be viewed here.

Westerville Taxpayers Move to Repeal March Tax Increase

On May 7, 2012 taxpayers for Westerville Schools, with the representation of the 1851 Center,commenced circulation of an initiative petition to repeal the 6.71 mil tax increase narrowly approved in March after taxpayers defeated a similar measure at the November 2011 general election.

The Westerville effort marks the inaugural action of the 1851 Center in assisting taxpayers in using a previously obscure section of the Ohio Revised Code to lower their school district tax burdens, while forcing Ohio school districts to control spending and reign in labor costs rather than raising taxes.

“For years, many disingenuous Ohio school districts have chosen political gamesmanship over fiscal responsibility, placing tax hikes on the ballot at low-turnout elections where their own constituents’ voices are disproportionately heard,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson.  “The goal of our tax rollback project is to help taxpayers across the state fight back against this gamesmanship by subjecting the tax increase to the general election ballot.”

The 51-49 percent vote for the tax increase came just four months after a 61-39 defeat at the general election.

“We are particularly pleased to begin this project in Westerville, the highest-taxed school district in central Ohio, and also the longtime home of our Governor,” added Thompson.  “We hope that the Governor and other state officials take note of these local tax abuses and reform the policy statewide.  Until that time, we will vigorously address this issue.”

The 1851 Center has called on state officials to reduce the number of times per year school districts may place tax increases on the ballot from three to one – – the general election held each November.  Ohioans’ local government tax burden is the sixth highest in the nation, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation.

Westerville taxpayers have proposed specific cuts that would alleviate the need for the tax hike, noting that administrators enjoy luxurious benefits packages, the average teacher’s salary of over $65,000 (trending towards over $80,000 by 2014-15 at current spending rates) is amongst the highest in the state and significantly higher than salaries of average Westerville residents, and the district pays the salary of Westerville Education Association union officials to do union work that does not benefit the district or the taxpayers.

For the measure to appear on the November ballot, volunteers will need to submit 3,911 valid signatures to the Franklin and Delaware County Boards of Elections by August 9, 2012.

The 1851 Center’s guide on how taxpayers can roll back tax levies can be found here.

More information on Westerville School District finances and the tax repeal effort is available at TaxpayersForWestervilleSchools.com.

 

 

 

 

May 7, 2012: The Columbus Dispatch: Westerville Group wants to Pare Levy

May 7, 2012: The Republic: Constitutional Law Center helps Taxpayers

May 7, 2012: The Star Beacon: Ohio Law Center helps Taxpayers

May 7, 2012: 10TV: Group Collecting Signatures to Repeal Levy

May 7, 2012: Brian Wilson Radio Show:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

May 8, 2012: Ohio Votes: Effort Underway to Repeal Levy

May 8, 2012: NBC4: TV news coverage video

May 9, 2012: This Week: Group Seeks to Roll Back Levy

May 10, 2012: Ohio Liberty Coalition: Taxpayers Attempting to Repeal Narrowly Passed Levy

May 10, 2012: 610 WTVN: Maurice Thompson’s radio interview with Joel Riley

May 10, 2012: Media Trackers: Taxpayer Advocates Seek to Rein in School Spending

Ohioans Submit Brief to U.S. Supreme Court Challenging Constitutionality of Individual Mandate

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has submitted to the United States Supreme Court a “friend of the court” brief asserting that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional.  The brief highlights for the High Court Ohioans’ placement of the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment (“Issue 3”) in Ohio’s Bill of Rights, and its role in the Court’s analysis of whether the mandate withstands constitutional scrutiny.

The individual health insurance mandate, described as a “minimum essential coverage requirement” in the PPACA, attempts to require each citizen of the United States to purchase a qualifying heath insurance policy that, thus far, must cover items ranging from substance abuse and mental health coverage to maternity care.  Through requiring these coverages and others, the mandate is expected to drive up costs of health insurance premiums nationwide.

The 1851 Center’s Brief recognizes that because the mandate is not a regulation of commerce, per se, it must be “necessary and proper” for carrying into execution Congressional Commerce Clause power.  The Brief then chronicles legal principles and factual background demonstrating that, in light of efforts in Ohio and elsewhere, the mandate is not “proper,” as the Court has historically understood that term.

Specifically, the brief asserts:

  • The Constitution is animated by federalism, and because its purpose is to protect liberty, the mandate violates the “letter and spirit” of the constitution, insofar as it may displace state protection of a fundamental right.
  • Freedom from compulsion to purchase government-defined health insurance is the type of liberty states must be permitted to protect.
  • The Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments protect, from Necessary and Proper Clause power, rights specifically enumerated under state law.
  • The Necessary and Proper Clause has never before been used to displace a state constitutional provision protecting liberty.
  • The mandate forces 49 states to adhere to a policy only heretofore adopted by Massachusetts, even though that policy has been vigorously debated in each state.
  • States may protect liberty above and beyond the baseline protections afforded by the federal Constitution.

Ohio is one of three states with constitutional prohibitions against forced purchase of health care insurance.  Ten other states maintain statutory prohibitions, and 36 of the remaining 39 states have deliberately abstained from enacting individual health insurance mandates, despite debate over the policy since California first proposed such a mandate in 1939.

The Ohio Amendment, approved by 66 percent of the vote, over 2.2 million voters, added a 21st Section Ohio’s Bill of Rights “to preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.”  In approving the amendments Ohioans specifically found “The freedom to not be forced to purchase government-defined private health insurance is a fundamental right.”

“One of the purposes of enacting the Health Care Freedom Amendment was not only protect Ohioans’ health care freedom from state and local government, but also to place Ohioans in the nation’s strongest position to challenge invasive elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“The 1851 Center’s Brief is a reminder, like the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment, of our view, and the founders’ view, that government exists to secure rights, rather than to take from some so as to provide benefits, amenities, and comfort to others,” added Thompson.  “We thought it important to share this view with the Court, along with a reminder of the impropriety of the federal government eradicating rights that the states have essentially ‘federalized’ through the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, as it decides the extent of our liberties.”

The Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment was drafted, initiated, and defended by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

Workplace Freedom Amendment Petitions Being Circulated for Inclusion on the 2012 Ballot

The Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment, which would “guarantee the freedom of Ohioans to choose whether to participate in a labor organization as a condition of employment,” will appear on the November 2012 ballot if 386,000 signatures are submitted by early July.  Specifically the Amendment would provide that, in Ohio:

  • No law, rule, agreement, or arrangement shall require any person or employer to become or remain a member of a labor organization.
  • No law, rule, agreement, or arrangement shall require, directly or indirectly, as a condition of employment, any person or employer, to pay or transfer any dues, fees, assessments, other charges of any kind, or anything else of value, to a labor organization, or third party in lieu of the labor organization.

The Amendment would not prevent any person from voluntarily belonging to or providing support to a labor organization, or apply to agreements entered into or renewed prior to the enactment of this section.

Similar worker protection is provided in 22 other states, primarily in the south and west.  Ohio would be the first Midwestern state to pass such an Amendment.   Backers of the Amendment, which was drafted by the 1851 Center, include many of those who successfully implemented the 21st Section to Ohio’s Bill of Rights, the Health Care Freedom Amendment, as Issue 3 on November 8.  If passed, the Amendment would be the 22nd section in Ohio’s Bill of Rights.

“Ohio’s current unemployment rate remains over 9 percent – – it’s no coincidence that this rate of unemployment is much higher than in states that prohibit forced unionism, while private-sector job growth in those states has dramatically outpaced Ohio’s,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.  “This Amendment will make it clear that Ohio is a safe place to start, locate, or keep a business, and also a safe place to gain employment without being commandeered by powerful political machines.”

Before circulators can begin gather signatures, the Amendment’s summary must be approved as “fair and truthful” by the Ohio Attorney General, and its text as one subject by the Ohio Ballot Board.  By law, the Attorney General and Ballot Board each have ten days to complete their respective processes.

Added Thompson “Ultimately, freedom to associate also means freedom not to associate – – it’s time for Ohio to end labor conditions that compel its citizens to participate in highly-politicized labor organizations, or instead pay a considerable penalty.”

Since the New Deal era, federal regulations have dramatically tilted labor markets in favor of unions, and have left little room for state autonomy.  However, states are explicitly permitted to end forced union participation within their borders.

For more detailed information and references that support the above statements, click the following link for the 1851 Center’s:

 

FULL TEXT OF THE AMENDMENT

Be it resolved by the people of the State of Ohio that Article I, Section 22 of the Ohio Constitution be adopted and read as follows:

ARTICLE I

Freedom to choose whether to participate in a labor organization as a condition of employment

Section 22 (A) No law, rule, agreement, or arrangement, shall require, directly or indirectly, any person or employer to become or remain a member of a labor organization.

Section 22 (B) No law, rule, agreement, or arrangement shall require, directly or indirectly, as a condition of employment, any person or employer to pay or transfer any dues, fees, assessments, other charges of any kind, or anything else of value, to a labor organization, or third party in lieu of the labor organization.

Section 22 (C) Nothing in this section shall (1) prevent any person from voluntarily belonging to or voluntarily providing support to a labor organization; or (2) apply to agreements entered into or renewed prior to the enactment of this section.

Section 22(D) No other provision of the Ohio Constitution shall impair or limit the rights contained herein.

Section 22(E) This section shall be implemented to the maximum extent that the United States Constitution and federal law permit.  Any invalid or inoperative provisions shall first be construed as not conflicting with federal law, and then, only if necessary, severed from remaining portions of the section, which shall remain in effect.

Section 22(F) Any person, directly or indirectly affected or threatened with any harm by a violation of this section, may bring a civil or equitable action to enforce this section, and upon prevailing shall be entitled to injunctive relief, reasonable attorney fees, costs, and other damages.

Section 22 (G) Definitions

(1)   “Labor organization” means any agency, union, employee representation committee, or organization of any kind that exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning collective bargaining, grievances, wages, benefits, rates of pay, hours of work, other forms of compensation, or other conditions of employment.

(2)   “Person or employer” includes all persons and employers in the state of Ohio, whether public or private, with the exception of the federal government of the United States and its employees.

(3)   Indirect requirements, include, but are not limited to the imposition of fines, penalties, or other costs or charges for, or the conditioning of public or private sector employment or employment opportunities on (a) failure to become or remain a member of a labor organization; or (b) paying or transferring dues, fees, assessments, other charges, or anything else of value to a labor organization.  Indirect requirement further includes payments to third parties in lieu of the payments prohibited above.

(4)   “Fines, penalties, or other costs or charges” includes but is not limited to any civil, criminal, contractual or other penalty; any fine, tax, or monetary charge; or any salary or wage withholding or surcharge or fee that is used to punish or discourage the exercise of rights protected under this section.

 

 

 

November 10, 2011: Reuters – Tea Party Groups to Keep Pushing Right to Work

November 10, 2011: Dayton Business Journal: Tea Party Group Pushes for Ohio Amendment  

November 11, 2011: Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Voters Could See Right to Work Issue

November 12, 2011: The New American: Ohio Could End Forced Unionization

November 21, 2011: PJ Media: Could Ohio become a Right to Work State?

November 24, 2011: FavStocks: Could Ohio Become a Right to Work State? Part Two

December 20, 2011: Political Realities: The Battle Over Right to Work Comes to Ohio

January 5, 2012: The Plain Dealer: A Right to Work in Indiana could be a Learning Experience

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.