Lower Your Local Tax Bill This Summer

1851 Center teaches citizens how to use local initiatives to place tax cut proposals on the ballot

Are you tired of do-nothing politicians but still looking to make a difference in government?

Have you recently opened an envelope with an unacceptably-large property tax bill? Or just paid an unreasonable amount of local income taxes?

Unbeknownst to many, Ohio law invites civic-minded Ohioans to initiate relatively simple petition drives to place tax cut proposals on the ballot.

In A Citizen’s Guide to Reducing Your Local Tax Burden, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law provides citizens with detailed, practical, and clear advice on how to lower their school district property or income taxes, as well as city, village, and township taxes, through a little known state statute.

By collecting just a few hundred valid signatures, over-taxed Ohioans can certify ballot issues to cut or repeal sky-rocketing local property or income taxes.

And there has never been a better time for such efforts:

  • Ohioans have never been more entitled to tax relief. Local property and income taxes in Ohio have sharply increased during the Kasich Administration. Some estimate that Ohioans local tax burdens have increased by an average of 40 percent since Kasich took office.
  • Ohioans are now subject to the ninth highest combined state and local tax burden in the nation, and the highest amongst all Midwestern states.
  • There’s no indication that state or local politicians will do anything to curb this continuous cycle of levy elections and tax hikes. But local initiatives are a means by which citizens can circumvent unhelpful public officials and take matters into their own hands.

The 1851 Center provides free legal assistance to those interested in placing a tax relief proposal on their local ballot this fall.

You may not be able to influence what goes on in Washington D.C., or even Columbus. But through a local petition drive, you can directly influence your tax rate. And you don’t need to be a lobbyist or donate to a political campaign to do it.

You have a right to keep more of the money you’ve earned. And by passing a local tax cut, more of your hard-earned dollars can be diverted away from waste and devoted to you and your family’s health, education, safety, and general well-being.

Read A Citizen’s Guide to Reducing Your Local Tax Burden HERE.

Ohio School District Forced to Return $5.5 Million in Illegal Taxes to Taxpayers

Indian Hill Board of Education raised taxes without a vote, refused to refund money

school bus picking up kidsCincinnati, OH – After a five-plus year legal battle concluded with an Ohio Court denying all of its objections, the Indian Hill Exempted Village School District Board of Education late yesterday finally conceded that it must return the $5.5 million that it illegally assessed taxpayers after raising taxes without a public vote in 2010.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law’s victory on behalf of a certified class of all school district property taxpayers comes nearly one year after the 1851 Center prevailed in striking down the tax increase before the Ohio Supreme Court. After the Court’s unanimous December 2014 decision, the school district still refused to return the funds, requiring the Center to file a class action lawsuit in January of 2015.

In affirming that Ohio taxpayers maintain a constitutional right to recover unlawfully-imposed taxes, Judge Martin of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas denied the Board’s Motion for Summary Judgment, rejecting the Board’s position that it was not required to return any of the funds, or that in the alternative, it was required to return $2 million at most.

Indian Hill School District property taxpayers can expect a refund check by March 1, 2016. Amounts are expected to be approximately $1,000 for the average taxpayer, and much greater for many others.

“The outcome of this case reflects the principles that property taxes cannot be increased without a vote by citizens, unlawfully-collected taxes must be returned to those taxpayers from whom they were taken, and government must pay interest to taxpayers when it has kept their funds for many years, as here,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“These results should dissuade other school districts from attempting to unlawfully raise taxes. Nevertheless, Ohioans should have a hard look at their school board members, who, absent scrutiny, could quite literally be getting away with theft, as would have otherwise happened here.”

Due to the class-action status of the case, the Court of Common Pleas will hold several hearings over the coming months to finalize the case, including addressing the administrative complexities of issuing pro rata refunds not just to current homeowners in the district, but to those that owned homes during the period of illegal taxation.

Rather than settling the matter in January, the Board diverted nearly $200,000 from funds earmarked for the education of school district children to pay attorneys fees of $400 per hour. Unable to find Cincinnati law firms willing to defend its practices, the Board opted to hire a firm consisting of Washington D.C. lobbyists and Cleveland lawyers.

The Board and its lawyers argued that it was entitled to keep the taxpayers’ money because each and every taxpayer did not file an individual protest letter with each and every property tax payment, and further argued that perhaps it could have legally raised taxes, albeit to a lesser extent, in the absence of the unlawful tax increase that it chose.

The 1851 Center countered by explaining that state and federal Due Process Clauses have been held to require the return of unlawfully-charged taxes. The Court took little time in flatly rejecting the firm’s arguments and siding with the 1851 Center.

“Judge Martin should be commended for scrutinizing and seeing through the Board’s outlandish arguments rather than just reflexively siding with government – – the Court deserves credit for doing justice for Ohio taxpayers,” added Thompson.

Read more about the underlying Ohio Supreme Court Case HERE

Read the 1851 Center’s Class-Action Filings HERE

Sixth Circuit Oral Argument: Is Ohio’s “Precious Metals Dealer Act” Constitutional?

Court considers whether to protect Ohio business owners’ right to advertise and sustain invalidation of burdensome regulation of coin dealers

libertycoinsCincinnati, OH – The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Ohio Precious Metal Dealer Act, which imposes strict limits on precious metals purchasers and businesses in Ohio.

Through vigorous enforcement of the Act, the Ohio Department of Commerce had threatened to shut down many Ohio small businesses. However, the Act was enjoined in its entirety by a federal court in December of 2012.

The ruling, made by Judge Watson of the Columbus division of the Southern District of Ohio, paved the way for Ohio businesses, most prominently coin dealers, to resume purchases of items containing gold and silver content, and in particular, to resume advertising their interest in purchasing inventory consisting of precious metals, free from concern over confiscatory prosecution, fines and regulations.

The legal action was brought by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law on behalf of Liberty Coins, a Delaware, Ohio coin dealer ordered by Commerce to cease all advertising indicating that it purchases gold and silver and all actual purchases of gold and silver, and threatened with a $10,000 fine and jail time if it does not comply.

The 1851 Center continues to defend Liberty Coins’ right to do business against Attorney General Mike DeWine’s appeal. And the case has since gained national attention, with the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Justice and Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation weighing in with Amicus Briefs defending Liberty Coins and attacking the Act’s lawfulness.

“This Act and those enforcing it have treated small businesses who make gold and silver available as public utilities at best, and criminals at worst, irrespective of whether they have done harm,” according to Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

Thompson added “the state misguidedly seeks to advance its mission of ‘preventing theft and resale of precious metals’ through gag orders, warrantless searches, and criminalization of innocent small businesses. Fortunately, the First Amendment allows us to protect Ohioans’ rights to engage in truthful promotion of their businesses, and this case demonstrates promise for a powerful new method of enforcing constitutional limits on onerous state and federal regulations.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that First Amendment applies to “commercial speech,” which includes advertising. Nevertheless, Commerce, after vigorous lobbying and political contributions made by the pawnbrokers industry, which is a direct competitor of those who are subject to the Act, had begun vigorous enforcement of regulations prohibiting coin dealers from advertising without a license, and requiring a license and payment of steep fine if they had previously advertised (licenses are conditioned on a state finding of “good character and reputation”). Once licensed, state and local agents were empowered to search and seize any item or business record without a search warrant or finding of probable cause.


Listen to the archived oral argument, HERE.

Read the Appellate Briefs HERE.

Read the Amicus Briefs on behalf of Liberty Coins from the Institute for Justice HERE and Pacific Legal Foundation HERE.


October 12, 2013: Cincinnati.com: Coin shop challenges Ohio law as free speech ban

Bill Authorizing Warrantless Searches of Ohioans’ Cell Phone Activity Derailed

Stalled in Committee after 1851 Testimony, Bill would permit sharing of
“any information” to law enforcement, if not amended

warrantlesscellColumbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today took action that stalled passage of Senate Bill 5, legislation that, if enacted, would permit warrantless acquisition, by state and local law enforcement, of Ohioans’ travels and cell phone communications.

The fast-tracked Bill, which passed 32-1 in the Ohio Senate and was poised to be voted out of its House committee today, voted on by the entire House on June 19, and enacted into law within a matter of days, received almost no public or media scrutiny until the 1851 Center’s involvement today.

In his testimony before the House Committee on Transportation Public Safety and Homeland Security, 1851 Center Director Maurice Thompson explained the following:

  • The Bill authorizes wireless service providers to break their voluntarily-agreed-to contracts with Ohio customers, to whom they’ve promised privacy, and strips Ohioans of their right to enforce these contracts, or sue for damages (Cell phone carriers are granted absolute immunity for sharing information with law enforcement).
  • The Bill is broader than the controversial federal NSA program, in that it authorizes searches not related to foreign communications or terrorism, including activity related to petty crime such as driving infractions, or no crime at all.
  • While the Bill’s initial requirements of an “emergency” are well-defined, later division of the Bill place no limits on local law enforcement’s authority to acquire cell phone records of any Ohioan for any reason.
  • Cell phone companies have considerable incentive to share this information with Ohio police, to whom they can sell this information without liability (under the Bill) at up to $2,200 per search.

“We were shocked to learn that this Bill had overwhelmingly passed the Senate with such speed, and that there was previously no opposition,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “Ohioans should be free from warrantless searches of their phone records except in the gravest of emergencies, if at all, and they should be free to contract with carriers that will not sell their information. This Bill would violate those constitutional principles, accomplishing the very thing the Fourth Amendment was written to guard against. That is why we have taken this action.”

After an hour of testimony by Thompson today, which sometimes included tense exchanges with state representatives, the House Committee agreed to table the Bill and field the 1851 Center’s proposed amendment – – which require a search warrants before any non-emergency acquisition of cell phone information may occur – – before taking further action on the Bill. The next Committee meeting on the matter is not yet scheduled.

Upon review of 1851 testimony, several Senators who voted for the Bill have indicated that the Bill was misleading, and that their support, at the behest of Senate leadership, was too hasty.


Read The 1851 Center’s testimony on proposed Senate Bill 5 HERE.


June 19, 2013: WBNS-10TV: Kelsey’s Law On Hold In Ohio After Cell Phone Privacy Issues Raised
June 20, 2013: Sandusky Register: Ohio lawmakers hot for snooping power

IRS Targeting of 1851 Center in May of 2010 Demonstrates Broader Corruption

IRS harassment was not limited to “tea party” organizations, and began earlier than many believe

IRSreleaseimageAColumbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today emphasized that Internal Revenue Service harassment of groups advocating for limited government extends as far back as early 2010, and includes organizations exclusively dedicated to protecting constitutional rights, including the 1851 Center.

In its May 20, 2010 response to the 1851 Center’s application for tax-exempt status, the IRS demands that, in order to receive approval of its application, the 1851 Center must: “Please explain in detail your organization’s involvement with the Tea Party.

The 1851 Center explained that it provides legal representation to Ohioans whose constitutional rights have been aggrieved, including tea party organizations and members, and ultimately received tax exempt status. However, this instance is significant because it reveals infractions beyond what even the Inspector General for Tax Administration’s May 14 Report reveals:

 

  • While the Report focuses on 501(c)(4) political and/or lobbying organizations, the 1851 Center applied for status as an educational and/or civil public charity under Section 501(c)(3) (the 1851 Center is a public interest law firm that litigates civil rights cases without engaging in politics).
  • While the Report indicates that “[t]he Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names,” the 1851 Center made no reference to “tea party,” nor “patriot” or “9-12,” in is application, much less in its name.
  • IRS harassment of liberty-oriented groups, and intent to root out “tea party” activities, even through non-tea party sources such as 1851, has been in full force for a minimum of three years.

 

In its IRS filings, the 1851 Center indicated that its mission was “to defend constitutional rights and human rights through legal action.” The Center supplied no information that would have indicated any particular relationship with any particular tea-party organization.

“As with demands made of other organizations, the IRS demand to the 1851 Center was at minimum, irrelevant, and appears to have been calculated to do political opposition research on organizations opposing the President’s policies through, ironically, doing nothing more than enforcing the United States and Ohio constitutions.” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “Investigators must acknowledge that the breadth of this scandal extends to not just ‘tea party’ groups, but to conservative and libertarian think tanks and public interest law firms across the nation.”

The 1851 Center has been a steadfast opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act since March of 2010, having initiated the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment, service as amicus counsel on the lawsuits opposing the individual mandate, and counseling against a state-based Obamacare exchange and more recently against Medicaid expansion.

Read the IRS Demand Letter to the 1851 Center HERE.

High Court Will Determine Ohioans Right to Challenge JobsOhio

1851 Center argues that state taxpayers maintain standing to challenge the constitutionality of Corporate Welfare

Columbus, OH – The Supreme Court of Ohio heard arguments on January 23 to determine the extent to which Ohioans may take legal action to force state government to comply with constitutional spending, indebtedness, and corporate welfare constraints.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has spearheaded the litigation, briefing and arguing the merits of the position that the Ohio Constitution demands broad access to the courts for taxpayers seeking to enforce the Ohio Constitution’s structural restraints on government. The Center had originally submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court a “friend of the court” brief asserting that Progress Ohio and other left-wing challengers must be found to have taxpayer and “public interest” standing to challenge the constitutionality of Governor Kasich’s JobsOhio legislation.

The 1851 Center asserts that if Ohio’s high court gives a pass to lower court rulings that Progress Ohio does not possess standing in this case, the Court will essentially bar all Ohioans from enforcing the Ohio Constitution’s stringent spending, debt, and “anti-corporate-welfare” provisions, effectively rending these provisions unenforceable.

The JobsOhio legislation sets up a special public-private corporation to invest public funds in select private corporations without transparency. The challengers contend (1) these features violate the Ohio Constitution’s prohibitions on corporate welfare and state spending and indebtedness (contained in Articles 8 and 13); and (2) the General Assembly has unconstitutionally attempted to insulate JobsOhio from judicial scrutiny by including a provision that essentially prohibits any legal actions from being brought to challenge it.

Lower courts refused to consider these serious constitutional claims, flippantly concluding that Progress Ohio has no standing (the right to sue in Court) because it does not have a sufficiently “personal stake” in enforcement of the state constitution; and further because enforcement of the constitution’s spending, debt, and corporate welfare limits are not a sufficiently important public interest to warrant an exemption from this personal stake requirement.

The 1851 Center’s initial brief, which takes no position on the substantive issue – – the constitutionality of JobsOhio – – asserts the following:

  • The Ohio Constitution demands that citizens and taxpayers maintain standing to enforce limits on tax, spending, and indebtedness legislation.
  • The lower courts in this case erred in relying on federal standing cases, which are centered on Article III of the federal constitution, because the language of the Ohio Constitution deliberately rejects such barriers to standing in Ohio, and contains no jurisdictional prohibition on taxpayers and citizens bringing public interest actions.
  • Enforcing well-defined constitutional limits on state spending, indebtedness, and governmental conferral of special corporate privilege is “of great importance and interest to the public.”
  • Ohioans’ stake in enforcement of their constitution is sufficiently personal to maintain standing to enforce constitutional limits on state government’s spending, indebtedness, and provision of special corporate privileges.
  • If Ohioans are required to have a “personal stake” in such actions beyond their role as citizens and taxpayers, as the lower courts require in this case, then no Ohioan will have the capacity to enforce these general spending, debt and corporate welfare limits, and Courts will have rendered those provisions effectively unenforceable.

“While we may not agree with Progress Ohio’s politics, we certainly believe that they, like all Ohioans, must have standing to defend the Ohio Constitution in court, if that document is to remain enforceable,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “By requiring a ‘personal stake’ in a matter upon which all Ohioans are harmed relatively equally, such as state spending, indebtedness, and corporate welfare, Ohio courts are pulling the rug out from under these key constitutional limitations on government, and placing their own preference for abstaining from the hard work of enforcing the constitution above them. Such decisions cannot stand, if these important limits on government are to be enforceable going forward.”

Continued Thompson, “The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in this case needs to acknowledge that when courts strip Ohioans’ of the right to enforce constitutional limits on government in court, they essentially redact those constitutional limits through procedural artifice. Ohio judges should enforce, not redact, the Ohio Constitution”

Read the 1851 Center’s initial Brief in this case HERE.

November 7, 2013: Columbus Dispatch: Supreme Court to decide who has the right to sue JobsOhio

November 6, 2013: WKSU NPR 89.7: Ohio Supreme Court hears first round of arguments in JobsOhio [AUDIO]

November 6, 2013: NBC 4: Foes Of Ohio Job-Creation Board Seek Right To Sue [VIDEO]

March 15, 2013: Ohio Watchdog: Court rejects basis for democracy in JobsOhio case

March 11, 2013: WBNS-10TV: Ohio Auditor Asks To See The Books For JobsOhio [VIDEO]

March 8, 2013: The Plain Dealer: Auditor’s authority to check JobsOhio books sparks dispute with Gov. John Kasich

February 26, 2013: Ohio Christian Alliance: The Important Issue of Judicial Standing with Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Law Center [AUDIO]

February 17, 2013: Dayton Daily News: ‘Activist’ Kasich getting mixed reviews

February 5, 2013: The Lima News: Editorial: JobsOhio delays irk Kasich

February 3, 2013: The Repository: Genesis of proposal doesn’t bode well for coming debate

January 31, 2013: Columbus Dispatch: Kasich says critics will answer to God

January 31, 2013: Media Trackers Ohio: Governor Kasich Blasts Conservative, Liberal Foes of JobsOhio as “Nihilists”

January 31, 2013: Columbus Business First: Kasich: JobsOhio foes threaten ‘wrecking’ state’s economy

January 31, 2013: Cincinnati.com: Kasich blasts supporters of JobsOhio lawsuit

January 23, 2013: Houston Chronicle: High court to decide group’s right to sue JobsOhio

January 23, 2013: Columbus Dispatch: State justices to assess legality of JobsOhio suit

Eminent Domain Abuse Continuing Along Ohio Pipeline Route

1851 Center stops abuse in Licking County, offers free assistance to property owners threatened with taking of property by private pipeline corporation

farmColumbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today condemned a private pipeline corporation’s continued assertion of legal authority to take Ohioans’ private property for its own benefit, and threatened litigation, should the corporation not discontinue. In addition, the Center (1) made public its analysis demonstrating a lack of such authority; (2) disclosed that the corporation has immediately backed down from its threats once confronted with 1851 analysis; and (3) offered free legal representation to all owners threatened with a taking of their private property.

Enterprise Liquid Pipelines, a Texas-based corporation amongst the world’s largest pipeline companies, to construct the Appalachia to Texas (“ATEX”) Pipeline across the state, claims that it — by itself and without government approval — can take Ohioans’ homes and land pursuant to an arcane Ohio statute. Enterprise is relying on Ohio Revised Code Section 1723.01, which at first blush appears to permit certain private pipeline companies to “appropriate so much land. . . as is deemed necessary. . . for the laying down of pipes.”

In a November 27, 2012 formal statutory notice to farmer Dave Bonifant, Enterprise threatened “the property you own . . . is within the proposed route of the pipeline,” “Enterprise will exercise its eminent domain authority to appropriate your property,” and “Enterprise will exercise its eminent domain authority through a court proceeding if you and it are unable to reach an agreement.” In the same letter, Enterprise claimed that the fair market value of Mr. Bonifant’s property was just “$5,500.”

In its December 17, 2012 response on behalf of Mr. Bonifant and several others, the 1851 Center exhaustively outlines why the Ohio Constitution denies appropriation authority to the pipeline project.

The 1851 Center’s legal memorandum includes the following analysis:

  • R.C. 1723.01 does not apply to ethane pipelines. While R.C. 1723.01 authorizes the use of eminent domain, in some cases “for transporting natural or artificial gas, petroleum, coal or its derivatives, water, or electricity, through tubing, pipes, or conduits,” etc., the ATEX pipeline does not transport any of these. Rather, it transports ethane, which Enterprise describes as a “liquid,” that is “derived from the natural gas extraction process.”
  • ELP, through the ATEX, is not a “public utility. Due to Senate Bill 315’s amendments to R.C. 4905 in June of 2012, ELP is clearly not a “public utility.”
  • The Ohio Constitution requires that any taking of property be for “public use. The Ohio Supreme Court has explained that “even under * * * a deferential standard * * * public use is not established as a matter of law whenever the legislative body acts.” Instead, “defining the parameters of the power of eminent domain is a judicial function, and [Ohio courts] remain free to define the proper limits of the doctrine.”
  • Economic benefits to private interests are not “public uses.” In Norwood v. Horney, the Supreme Court of Ohio recently affirmed private uses for private gain are not public uses, explaining “we have never found economic benefits alone to be a sufficient public use for a valid taking;” [t]o justify the exercise of eminent domain solely on the basis of the fact that the use of that property by a private entity seeking its own profit might contribute to the economy’s health is to render impotent our constitutional limitations on the government’s power of eminent domain;” “economic development by itself is not a sufficient public use to satisfy a taking;” and “[w]e hold that an economic or financial benefit alone is insufficient to satisfy the public-use requirement of Section 19, Article I. In light of that holding, “any taking based solely on financial gain is void as a matter of law.” Thus, the economic benefits of the ATEX Pipeline alone would not appear to justify appropriation of private property.
  • The public will not possess or otherwise use the ATEX Pipeline.In Pontiac Improvement Co. v. Board of Com’rs of Cleveland Metropolitan Park Dst., the Supreme Court of Ohio indicated that the use must always be a public use, and the land or the interest therein must be taken by the public. Where private property is taken against the will of the owner under the power of eminent domain, it is a prerequisite that possession, occupation, and enjoyment of the property by the public, or by public agencies, is sought and is necessary;” and “‘[p]ublic use means the same as use by the public.” The ATEX, however, will not be possessed or used by the public, but will instead be privately owned, operated, and possessed, solely for the benefit of Enterprise and several large natural gas producers.
  • Taking property to advance the ATEX Pipeline is not “necessary.”In addition to being for a “public use,” the Ohio Constitution requires that takings be “necessary.”Similar pipelines are being built in Ohio without the use of eminent domain. As the Supreme Court of Ohio explained in Cooper v. Williams, “[i]t is only this great and common benefit to all the people alike that creates a necessity authorizing and justifying the seizure.”

In response to this analysis, Enterprise has refrained from following through with the threatened legal action against Licking County property owners. Instead, Enterprise responded by first offering Mr. Bonifant a six-figure dollar amount for his “$5,500” property before altering the route to avoid Mr. Bonifant’s property altogether, as he had consistently requested.

However, Enterprise continues to use the threat of eminent domain to gain leverage over Ohioans along the ATEX route.

“Ultimately, any Ohio statute attempting to convey eminent domain authority to a purely private corporation should be repealed. The entire purpose of a constitution is to prevent government from taking private property from the politically weak and transferring it to well-connected special interests. Yet that his precisely what this statute enables,” explained 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “The abuse along the ATEX is a prime example of what can happen to Ohio property owners when such a statute remains on the books.”

“And while we fully support this pipeline project, and the continued development of oil and gas reserves in eastern Ohio,” continued Thompson, “the very thing that makes private enterprise possible is respect for private property rights – – the Ohio Constitution does not enable private parties to take Ohioans homes and land, simply to improve their own profit margins.”

The 1851 Center draws a distinction between takings for pipelines facilitating home heating or energy independence and pipelines for purely private commercial interests. While public utilities may exercise eminent domain to provide service to Ohioans homes, and certain oil and gas pipelines may even possess eminent domain authority, the ATEX is set to haul Ethane — a chemical byproduct of fracking later used to manufacture consumer plastics — across the state. ELP intends to save money by constructing a pipeline rather than channeling the ethane to their Texas-based facilities by truck or rail. The pipeline remains submerged through the entire state, provides no service to Ohioans, and maintains the same legal status as would a pipeline for milk, bottled water, or chocolate.

“At minimum, Enterprise is using the false threat of eminent domain to intimidate Ohio property owners into accepting below-market settlements for their land,” added Thompson. “Ohioans should be aware of this ploy.”

Compounding the matter, in a March 28, 2012 letter to property owners, Enterprise claimed to have eminent domain authority by virtue of its status “as a public utility.” However, Senate Bill 315, enacted in June of 2012, clarified that such operators are clearly not public utilities. Enterprise has not corrected itself and nevertheless continued to threaten homeowners who may have been misled as to Enterprise’s status.

Meanwhile, many eminent domain attorneys hired by property owners have incentives to work in implicit cooperation with the pipeline: a typical attorneys fees agreement to negotiate a pipeline taking provides that the attorney is only paid if the client eventually sells his or her property to the pipeline company. Accordingly, many attorneys summarily advise their clients that Enterprise does indeed maintain eminent domain authority, and that they have no choice but to sell.

The ATEX is set to begin in Jefferson County, Ohio, along the Ohio River, and after crossing the state south of Columbus, exit Ohio through Butler County.

The 1851 Center is offering free representation to homeowners who object to the taking of their private property by Enterprise.

Read the 1851 Center’s full legal memorandum to Enterprise Liquid Pipelines HERE.

April 1, 2013: Farm and Dairy: Licking County landowner fights pipeline and appears to have won

February 2, 2013: The Buckeye Lake Beacon: Help offered to pipeline opponents

January 23, 2013: Ohio Watchdog: Ohio lawyer offers free aid to stop pipeline land seizures

Federal Court: Ohio Precious Metals Dealers Licensing Scheme Unconstitutional

Act regulates business in response to constitutionally-protected advertising, and prohibits legitimate purchases of gold and silver

Columbus, OH – A federal court late yesterday ruled that Ohio’s regulatory scheme governing those purchasing gold, silver, and other precious metals – the Precious Metals Dealers Act- violates the First Amendment.

The ruling, made by Judge Watson of the Columbus division of the Southern District of Ohio, paves the way for Ohio businesses, most prominently coin dealers, to resume purchases of items containing gold and silver content, and in particular, to resume advertising their interest in purchasing inventory consisting of precious metals, free from concern over confiscatory prosecution, fines and regulations.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law took up the coin dealers’ case and challenged the state law after the Ohio Department of Commerce threatened to shut down Liberty Coins, of Delaware, Ohio, if it refused to pay considerable fines and obtain a government license to advertise its business.

The lawsuit had sought recognition that the First Amendment applies to and protects “commercial speech,” such as coin dealers’ advertising, and that the Act’s prohibition of advertising by coin dealers was not a means of reducing gold and silver-related theft.

The lawsuit had also made claims asserting that requirements that business owners demonstrate that they have “good character,” “sufficient reputation,” “sufficient financial responsibility,” and “sufficient experience” prior to being permitted to run their businesses were unconstitutionally vague; and that the Act’s authorization of warrantless searches of business owners’ property and records at any time without notice violated their Fourth Amendment rights.

In his 28 page decision, Judge Watson, explaining that “the Act only prohibits the unlicensed buying of precious metals when commercial speech is involved,” emphasized that “a broad injunction completely prohibiting enforcement of the licensing provision is warranted.”

The order, an across-the-board rebuke to Ohio’s regulations and the cavalier enforcement tactics the Ohio Department of Commerce has against Ohio’s small businesses over the past year, concluded as follows:

  • The Department of Commerce failed to show “how holding one’s self out as willing to purchase precious metals contributed to the evils the State seeks to prevent. Moreover, Defendants have not shown how requiring a license only for purchasers of precious metals who engage in commercial speech directly and materially advance those interests.”
  • “[The state] has not shown that forcing those who engage in commercial speech to obtain a license is reasonable,” and “the restriction on commercial speech is more extensive than necessary.”
  • The Department of Commerce “incorrectly” asserts “that the law prevents fraud, money laundering, theft and terrorism by requiring those who wish to engage in the business of buying from the public gold, silver, and other precious metals to be licensed.”
  • “The breadth and number of exemptions undercuts the Defendants’ argument that the licensing scheme is narrowly tailored to protect against theft, fraud, or terrorism.”

The Court added that the Department of Commerce’s aggressive reading of the regulations was “nonsensical,” and that Ohio coin dealers and others “are unable to actually purchase precious metals without facing prosecution due to Defendants’ incorrect interpretation of the Act.”

“We are just trying to make it safe for small businesses to operate in Ohio – – a mission that we wish our state government would share, rather than thwart,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “This Act and those enforcing it treat small businesses who make gold and silver available as public utilities at best, and criminals at worst, irrespective of whether they have done harm.”

Heightened enforcement of the PMDA by the Department of Commerce, under the control of the Kasich Administration, comes in response to accelerated lobbying and financial contributions to candidates by the pawn brokers industry, which is exempt from the regulations, and a direct competitor of those who are subject to the Act. The enforcement, which would have put many coin dealers out of business, also comes at a time of rising precious metals prices, where an increasing number of Ohioans seek to use gold and silver to protect their savings against potential inflation caused by federal government increases in the money supply.

Thompson added “the state misguidedly seeks to advance its mission of ‘preventing theft and resale of precious metals’ through gag orders, warrantless searches, and criminalization of innocent small businesses. Fortunately, the First Amendment allows us to protect Ohioans’ rights to engage in truthful promotion of their businesses.”

Read the Court’s Order Granting Liberty Coins’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction HERE.


December 7, 2012: Bloomberg Businessweek: Ohio gold, silver dealers’ law blocked by judge

December 7, 2012: Ohio Watchdog: OH: Judge blocks catch-22 in state law that threatened entire industry

December 6, 2012: WYTV 33 News: Ohio gold, silver dealers’ law blocked by judge

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

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