Legal Center to High Court: Ohio PAC Laws Violate First Amendment

1851 Center asks Ohio Supreme Court to review Ohio Political Action Committee regulations on behalf of Geauga County Blogger

blogger-150x150Columbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today applied to the Supreme Court of Ohio for jurisdiction over a case challenging the nation’s strictest Political Action Committee regulations.

The legal action is filed on behalf of Edmund Corsi, a Cleveland-area blogger who faces prosecution after blogging about state and local political issues, authoring a pamphlet critical of local politicians, and hosting an informal political discussion group. The state contends that Ohio’s PAC laws required Mr. Corsi to first register with the state and hire a treasurer, and then disclose his home address on his pamphlet and blog, and that by failing to do so, Corsi is subject to criminal penalties and civil fines. Mr. Corsi was referred for prosecution by one of the politicians he criticized – – Geauga County Republican Party chairman Edward Ryder.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that political speech, even when through group association, in pamphlets or on the internet, is afforded the greatest constitutional protection.

In fact, the Court has already once struck down Ohio’s Political Action Committee regulation, in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission in 1995. There, the Court chastised Ohio courts and the OEC for upholding the regulations after state officials attempted to prosecute a senior citizen for failing to include a “disclaimer” on her homemade flyer advocating against a Westerville property tax increase. Nevertheless, the Ohio Elections Commission maintains that the re-written regulations still require groups of two or more Ohioans who communicate political thoughts to first register as a Political Action Committee, and thereby submit to reporting, disclaimer, and disclosure requirements when communicating.

This case will mark the Ohio Supreme Court’s first opportunity to analyze the re-written PAC regulations, as well as the Court’s first opportunity to consider the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision on Ohio’s campaign finance regulations. There, of potential importance to Mr. Corsi’s case, the Court explained that “the First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney * * * before discussing the most salient points of our day” (At Mr. Corsi’s hearng, the OEC Chairman advised Mr. Corsi to engage a campaign finance attorney if he wished to continue blogging about state and local public policies).

The 1851 Center’s Motion for Jurisdiction asserts the following:

  • Ohio’s PAC regulations unconstitutionally regulate small groups of citizens that spend little or even no money on politics, and do not coordinate with political candidates or campaigns, thereby extending beyond the entire purpose of campaign finance regulations.
  • The costs of complying with the PAC regulations, which includes reporting and disclaimer requirements, administrative burdens, the hiring of a treasurer, and the loss of privacy and anonymity of those who speak out by effectively requiring the disclose of the author’s name and home address on government filing, has the effect of silencing protected speech.
  • The regulations are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, because they permit the Ohio Elections Commission members to guess at the “primary or major purpose” of the group, without considering whether they have spent money on politics.
  • The OEC improperly overanalyzes Facebook and blogs posts to involuntarily commit a group of citizens as a PAC (federal law prohibits consideration of “internet activities” when determining federal PAC status).

“Ohio’s PAC regulations have long been considered the most oppressive in the nation,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “It would be wise for our Court to hold that the First Amendment does not allow agency bureaucrats and political opponents to use PAC regulations to silence the speech of those who criticize government, using the loss of privacy and expensive reporting requirements of PAC regulations as leverage to intimidate and threaten those expressing differing views, as has been done here.”

Thompson added, “While many Americans fret over government permitting speech by ‘super-PACs,’ they should be more concerned about shocking amount of everyday grass-roots political speech that Ohio is forcing into PAC status – from lawn signs to Facebook pages – and thus essentially prohibiting, at the very same time.”

The case is particularly significant for opponents of local tax levies and “tea party” groups, many of whom are likely to be characterized as Political Action Committees, if the Ohio Election Commission’s ruling is not overturned.

Ohio’s regulations are notable because they are the nation’s only PAC regulations lacking what is commonly referred to as a “monetary trigger”: Ohioans can be forced to register as PACs even if they neither expect to or actually give money to or take money from political candidates or campaigns, and otherwise spend no money on politics.

Read the Geauga Constitutional Council’s Motion for Jurisdiction HERE.

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

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.

Legal Center: Shaker Heights Threats to Tax-Increase Opponents Unconstitutional

shtuCleveland, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today filed suit in federal court on behalf of Shaker Heights residents whom city officials threaten to silence through threat of a frivolous trademark lawsuit. The threat comes in retaliation for the citizens’ opposition of the City of Shaker Heights’ attempt to increase income taxes on residents through an August 7 vote.

The legal action, filed on behalf of the Shaker Heights Taxpayers Union (“SHTU”), includes 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).

Federal courts have repeatedly confirmed that the First Amendment trumps trademark law in the field of political speech. Nevertheless, 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 has been forced to stop using the logo in its campaign.

Despite the City’s claims, given the clarity of the law on this issue, the City’s trademark concerns are simply a pretext to silence the SHTU from hindering the City’s efforts to raise taxes on its citizens. The lawsuit seeks to restore the right of taxpayers to engage in these types of debates without fear of officious-sounding but frivolous threats and intimidation from their own government.

“This is 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. “These types of case are why we formed the 1851 Center: to prevent city official from bullying those trying to limit government, who they know don’t have the means to fight back on their own.”

Added Thompson, “the City was counting on the reality that an average citizen would not understand the frivolity of its threats, given the complexities of intellectual property law. This case will help ensure that other cities do not use official-appearing legal threats to masquerade their efforts to silence limited-government viewpoints in the heat of a local tax election.”

The logos at issue in this case are below:

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

 

July 13, 2012: Cleveland.com: Federal judge to discuss potential court injunction against Shaker Heights by anti-tax increase group

July 13, 2012: Cleveland.com: Shaker Heights agrees to let Shaker Heights Taxpayers’ Union use city logo in its materials

 

The 1851 Center’s Complaint can be viewed here.

The 1851 Center’s can be viewed here.

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.

Legal Centers Move to Protect Rights of University of Cincinnati Students to Petition for Workplace Freedom on Campus

On February 22, 2012, The 1851 Center filed suit in federal court on behalf of UC students prohibited from gathering signatures and simultaneously discussing the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment with their fellow students.

The legal action, which includes a demand for an immediate injunction against UC’s policies prohibiting non-disruptive political speech, was filed on behalf of the student group Young Americans for Liberty (“YAL”) and its President Christopher Morbitzer, with support from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (“FIRE”).

The Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that First Amendment applies to public university property and also protects signature-gathering for petition drives as a form of political speech.  Nevertheless, UC’s policies prohibit political speech by students everywhere other than an 80 by 120 foot patch of grass near the center of campus, and even then, requires students to request permission and wait for up to 14 days prior to engaging their fellow students in discussion of important public policy matters, such as the Workplace Freedom Amendment.

The lawsuit seeks to restore the right of UC students to engage in political speech, and petitioning in particular, beyond the limited confines of the free speech zone, and without first having to ask permission and wait 14 days before doing so.

“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.”

 

 

 

March 28, 2012: The Daily Caller: The Top 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech

April 5, 2012: The News Record: Free Speech Under Fire

April 20, 2012: Fox Business Network: College Campuses Limiting Free Speech

 

 

 

 

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.

Corsi v. Ohio Elections Commission

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Partners in Action

The Rutherford Institute

 

Case Timeline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Corsi’s notice of appeal, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

 

  

  

 

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

April 28, 2011: Ohio Election Commission’s Decision

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

September 2, 2011: Corsi Opening Brief

September 23, 2011:  Corsi Reply Brief

February 7, 2012: Corsi Appellant Brief 

February 21, 2012: Corsi Appellant Reply Brief 

 

 

Slingluff v. Andover Twp.

 

The First Amendment clearly protects the right to gather on the public square, speak out in support of limited constitutional government, and critique the current state of affairs. The government’s action in this case, ironically, demonstrates the need for greater public understanding of Constitutional rights. One way to do that is through commemoration of Constitution Day.

September 10, 2010 – 1851 Center Files Federal Court Action to Defend First Amendment Rights

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today filed a complaint and temporary restraining order against Andover Township (Ashtabula County) in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. The complaint charges that township trustees’ actions blocking a Constitution Day (Sept. 17) rally on Andover Public Square, by local residents, violated the First Amendment. The 1851 Center, a non-partisan public interest law firm, is representing residents Margaret L. Slingluff, Emily Kobialko and Scott Bankson, organizers of the “Andover Tea Party,” in the action.

Township officials informed the residents that speech at the Constitution Day rally could be of a “political nature,” and thus inappropriate for the public square.

The decision to deny access to the park was made in accordance with a township resolution allowing officials to determine public space usage “on a case by case basis,” and to ban speech that they deem too “political.” However, the park in question is a common gathering point for public events that often have far more political overtones. Officials made no inquiry as to the size of the rally, or other pertinent logistical concerns.

September 15, 2010: 1851 Center Wins Injunction Against Andover Township Officials Who Blocked Constitution Day Rally

A federal court granted the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law a temporary injunction against Andover Township in Ashtabula County. The ruling is a victory for Andover Township residents who were previously blocked by township officials from celebrating Constitutional Day (Sept. 17) with a rally at a public park.

The order was issued by Judge Donald C. Nugent.

The 1851 Center, a non-partisan public interest law firm, is representing residents Margaret L. Slingluff, Emily Kobialko and Scott Bankson, organizers of the “Andover Tea Party,” in the action.

Media

  • September 15, 2010: Fox News:  Tea Party Wins Fight
  • September 16, 2010: The Rush Limbaugh Show: 

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  • September 17, 2010: Beforeitnews.com: Constitution Day Too Political
  • Listen to Maurice Thompson on WTVN AM 610’s Dirk Thompson show: 

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Filings

Motion for Temporary Restraining Order
Memo in support of Temporary Restraining Order
Andover Township letter to residents blocking the rally
Judge Nugent’s Order

Ohio Liberty Council v. Brunner

 

 

On March 22, 2010, the Ohio Liberty Council began the process of the placing a health care freedom constitutional amendment on the November 2010 ballot.

The group filed petition summary language and nearly 3,000 signatures from registered voters in 48 counties with the Ohio Attorney General, who later approved the language as truthful and accurate.

 The amendment provides that:

  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system;
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance; and
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

The Ohio Liberty Council is a statewide coalition of non-partisan grass roots groups in Ohio including: Central Ohio 9/12 Project, Cincinnati Tea Party, Young Americans for Liberty, Dayton Tea Party, Ohio Freedom Alliance and many more grass roots organizations. By working together, the member groups of the Ohio Liberty Council seek to achieve real results to protect and promote liberty in Ohio. More on the Ohio Liberty Council can be found at http://www.ohiolibertycouncil.org.

On April 9, 2010, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board ruled the proposed constitutional amendment should be split into two parts.

As a result, the board rejected the proposed amendment and told its sponsor, the Ohio Liberty Council, to start over.

 The move placed the Ohio Liberty Council in the untenable position of restarting the amendment language approval process and collecting two sets of 402,275 signatures by June 30. The group asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block the Ballot Board’s action. “The Ohio Ballot Board got it wrong today,” said Warren Edstrom of the Ohio Liberty Council, “We will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold our amendment language and correct this error.”

 On April 14, 2010 the 1851 Center Filed an Ohio Supreme Court Complaint Against the Ballot Board.

In the writ of mandamus filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, the 1851 Center asserted the Ballot Board’s actions were arbitrary and ran counter to the board’s own past precedent. The complaint contended the Ohio Liberty Council’s proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment addressed only one subject and should move forward as one constitutional amendment. Further, the Ballot Board’s ruling “effectively eviscerates the Ohio Liberty Council’s objective, and threatens to eviscerate access to the November, 2010 ballot,” the 1851 Center wrote in the complaint.

“We ask the court to review and correct the Ohio Ballot Board’s improper decision,” said Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center. “Our complaint rightfully attacks the constitutional authority of this unelected body to use its power to perform purely administrative tasks to destroy proposed constitutional amendments with which it disagrees. It does not have the constitutional authority to interfere with the Initiative rights articulated in Section 1, Article II of the Ohio Constitution.”

 On April 29, 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court Ordered the Ballot Board to Certify the Amendment Language.

The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board abused their discretion and violated Ohio law in rejecting ballot language for the proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Constitutional Amendment. The court ordered Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board to immediately certify the language and allow the petitioners to begin collecting signatures to qualify the issue for the November ballot. A copy of the court ruling is available here.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionally-granted rights of citizens to petition their government even when the arbitrary and self-serving decisions of Secretary Brunner and the ballot board attempt to block them,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson, who also drafted the amendment. “Secretary Brunner and the ballot board tried to use their purely administrative powers to destroy a citizen-initiated amendment with which they disagreed. Thankfully, the court checked this abuse, and Ohioans will have the opportunity to put the preservation of their health care freedom to a vote.”

In the decision, the justices wrote, “the ballot board abused its discretion and clearly disregarded R.C. 3505.62.” Further, the court upheld the special protections contained in the Ohio Constitution granting citizens the right to petition government.

Further, the court wrote, “the ballot board has a clear legal duty to liberally construe the right of initiative, and as long as the citizen-initiated proposed amendment bears some reasonable relationship to a single general object or purpose, the board must certify its approval of the amendment as written without dividing it into multiple petitions.”

 

 

 

April 13, 2010: 1851 Center’s Complaint

April 20, 2010: 1851 Center’s Merit Brief

April 22, 2010: Motion in Opposition of Extension

SpeechNow.org v. FEC

 

On September 1, 2009, the 1851 Center filed an amicus brief defending the First Amendment rights of SpeechNow.org in its legal battle with the Federal Elections Commission. The FEC viewed the non-profit much like a political action committee or PAC. The 1851 Center’s brief argued SpeechNow.org is not a political committee that makes contributions to candidates, and its subjection to harsh campaign finance laws are an unconstitutional violation of the freedoms of political speech and association. It emphasized that political speech made by citizens in a grassroots organization is protected by the First Amendment.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the 1851 Center’s position and provided SpeechNow.org with a significant and precedent-setting victory. The court’s ruling effectively blocks government-set caps on contributions to independent political groups. The decision is being hailed as a major victory for free speech and a significant bolstering of First Amendment rights. Further, the decision was the first major court decision on campaign finance issues since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling.

 

September 1, 2009: 1851 Center’s Amicus Brief

March 26, 2010: Federal Court’s Decision