FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 23, 2018 MEDIA CONTACT Maurice A. Thompson (614) 340-9817 MThompson@OhioConstitution.org City of Oakwood violated homeowners Fourth Amendment rights through sweeping city-wide home inspection requirements and must now return in section fees to all affected homeowners Dayton, OH - A federal court late yesterday declared unconstitutional the City of Oakwood's pre-sale inspections mandates - - mandates requiring homeowners to obtain and pass thorough government inspection before being permitted to sell their homes. The court also certified a class of all homeowners who were subject to the mandates and paid a $60 inspection fee at anytime over the past six years The 40 page ruling, by Judge Thomas M. Rose of the Southern District of Ohio, firmly rejects the lawfulness of pre-sale inspections, sometimes also referred to as "point of sale" mandates, and paves the way for the return of inspections fees to all affected homeowners, rather than just those who filed the lawsuit Specifically, the Court's decision ruled and explained as follows: "Oakwood's ordinance violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights by subjecting them to a warrantless search without valid consent." "The Court agrees that an Oakwood property owner could not have provided voluntary consent under the prior ordinance because failure to do so could result in denial of a certificate of occupancy and a criminal penalty . . . A person cannot provide such uncontaminated consent when refusal to do so empowers the municipal authority to deny him the right to sell his property." "Plaintiffs have established Oakwood's liability on their claim for unjust enrichment and restitution here. Plaintiffs paid the $60 fee to Oakwood for the inspection of their property. It would be inequitable to allow Oakwood to retain that money when it was collected pursuant to an unconstitutionally coercive ordinance." Judge Rose's decision certifies classes of all individuals or businesses that have been subject to the inspections and paid inspection fees to the City in conjunction with the inspections. "Local governments do not have unlimited authority to force entry into Ohioans' homes. To the contrary 'houses' are one of the types of property specifically mentioned by the Fourth Amendment; and Ohioans have every moral and constitutional entitlement to exclude others, even government bureaucrats, from their property," said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. "The right to own property in Ohio has little value if local governments are permitted to stop the sale of one's home to a willing buyer." "Class action litigation is an excellent method for average citizens to even the playing field when fighting back against their corrupt and otherwise indifferent local governments. This ruling confirms that Ohio cities must be held just as responsible to their citizens and big corporations are to their customers," added Thompson. Such municipal ordinances, in addition to restricting Ohioans' property rights, subject homeowners to open-ended warrantless searches of every interior and exterior space of a home, violating the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14, Article I of the Ohio Constitution. Accordingly, in May of 2016, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law moved to immediately enjoin Ohio cities, and the Cities of Bedford and Oakwood in particular, from enforcing "point of sale" and "pre-sale" programs that require citizens to endure and pass arbitrary and warrantless government inspections before they can sell their homes to even the most informed and willing buyers. In each case, the Cities had threatened to criminally prosecute and even imprison homeowners if sold their homes without first submitting to and passing city inspections. The legal action against Oakwood was filed on behalf of area real estate investor Jason Thompson, who was told by the City that he would face jail time for transferring a home he owns into a Limited Liability Company he created without first having paid for, obtained, and passed a pre-sale inspection. Listen to Maurice Thompson discuss the 4th Amendment HERE Watch our video discussing this case HERE Read the Court's Order HERE This lawsuit is brought in partnership with the Finney Law Firm in Cincinnati. Our clients receive free legal representation thanks to the generosity of our donors. If you support our efforts to advance liberty and limit government, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.
Our Legal Victories
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMEDIA CONTACTFebruary 5, 2018Maurice A. Thompson(614) 340-9817 MThompson@OhioConstitution.org Forbidding More Than Three People from Living Together Violates Ohio Constitution Ohio cities violate property rights by prohibiting more than three unrelated people from living in the same homeBowling Green, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today moved to strike a municipal ordinance that criminalizes greater than three unrelated individuals living in the same home regardless of the size of the home.The action is filed against the City of Bowling Green on behalf of 23 Bowling Green landlords and three student tenants threatened with eviction. The landlords own over 161 homes that, despite four or more bedrooms and ample parking, may not be occupied by greater than three unrelated people.Through its Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the 1851 Center explains that the City’s ordinance, which imposes a $500 per day fine, is violates the Ohio Constitution through suppressing private property rights and equal protection and imposing vague standards and excessive fines: As in other states that have invalidated such occupancy limits, the Ohio Constitution is more protective of private property rights and equal protection than the federal constitution. While the regulation professes to limit population density, many homes in the City are exempt from the rule, while there are no similar occupancy limits on related individuals. The regulation is unconstitutionally vague, insofar as the City maintains no list of which properties are exempt, and regulates houses based upon whether or not they were “designed for single family use.” Fine of $162,500 per year for permitting four individuals to live in a four-bedroom home is patently excessive. "In Ohio, many zoning regulations needlessly interfere with private property rights, drive up the cost of living, fail to accomplish their proclaimed purposes, and are used as political weapons - - often to benefit special interests or suppress disfavored minorities. This regulation is no different,” explained 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “However, there is no coherent reason why four missionaries should be prohibited from occupying a large six bedroom house, even as an unruly family of eight lives in a smaller home next door.”The 1851 Center draws a distinction between zoning regulations that prohibit homeowners from using their property to directly inflict harm on others and regulations simply aimed at social engineering."This regulation is aimed at government-controlled social engineering, i.e. keeping ‘the wrong kind of people’ out of certain neighborhoods, rather than land use. Unruly behavior should be directly regulated, rather than regulated on the basis of the relationships between those who live together,” added Thompson. “Ohioans should not be forced to pay higher rent or endure longer commutes due to such arbitrary regulations.”The case is pending before Judge Zouhary in the Western Division of the Northern District of Ohio. The Judge has issued a temporary standstill order.Read the 1851 Center's Complaint HERE.Read the 1851 Center's Motion for Preliminary Injunction 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, regulation, taxation, and search and seizures.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 23, 2018 MEDIA CONTACT Maurice A. Thompson (614) 340-9817 MThompson@OhioConstitution.org Sixth Circuit: State Cannot Inspect Ohioans’ Businesses Records without Warrant Fourth Amendment prohibits state’s mandate making all business records “available at all times” to state agents Columbus, OH – A federal circuit court late yesterday ruled that Ohio’s policies demanding private business records - - without a warrant or any evidence of wrongdoing - - violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling, made by a unanimous panel of the Sixth Circuit and authored by Judge David McKeague, addresses regulations governing those purchasing gold, silver, and other precious metals under the Precious Metals Dealers Act (“PMDA”). However, its impact is likely to far exceed just the PMDA. Many Ohio businesses, particularly those requiring government licensing, face materially identical mandates. Accordingly, the ruling paves the way for Ohio businesses, even if heavily licensed and regulated, to protect their privacy and property, especially when such demands are made on-the-spot and without a warrant. In a 23 page decision, the three-judge panel struck down a statute declaring “all books, forms, and records, and all other sources of information with regard to the business shall at all times be available for inspection,” and another demanding “free access to the books and papers and other sources of information with regard to the business.” The Court explained as follows: • “Business owners cannot be forced to choose between being arrested on the spot and standing on their Fourth Amendment rights.” • “[The challenged statutes] are both unnecessary to furthering Ohio’s state interest and too broad in scope to withstand facial Fourth Amendment scrutiny . . . both statutes effectively allow searches of dealers’ entire businesses . . . They therefore do not provide any standards to guide inspectors in the exercise of their authority to search.” • “The provisions’ seemingly unlimited scope, along with the grant of free access to such information at all times, does not sufficiently constrain the discretion of the inspectors.” “This ruling essentially affirms that while government may request some basic record-keeping, reporting, and inspection of inventory purchased from the public that has been reported stolen, state officials cannot walk into a business without a warrant or evidence of wrong-doing and demand to review our papers, cell phones, laptops, or other business records,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “No entrepreneur deserves to be arrested for questioning the authority of a state agent to show up at his business unannounced, without any evidence of wrongdoing, and confiscate or filter through these records.” Thompson added “this precedent will guard warrantless searches of business records in all industries, since the Court of Appeals decision acknowledged that even ‘closely regulated’ industries are entitled to greater protection. Ohioans should feel free to decline invasive and costly government searches without fear of retaliation.” The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law took up the case in 2012 on behalf of Liberty Coins, a coin dealer of Delaware, Ohio, and Worthington Jewelers, a retail jeweler in Worthington, Ohio. Each balked at the prospect of losing their business licenses and being fined and prosecuted for refusing to turn over cell phones, laptops, and paper records simply “upon demand” of state enforcement agents. Read the Court’s Order HERE. Listen to the Oral Argument HERE. Read the Brief HERE. Watch our video describing the impact of this case 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.
1851 Center Amicus Brief argues that government employees who aren't union members can't be forced to pay hundreds of dollars per year to unions Columbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law petitioned the United States Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Petitioner in a case challenging the constitutionality of public sector unions’ power to force public employees to pay union “agency fees.” In Janus v. AFSCME, the Petitioner argues that government employees who opt not to be union members cannot be forced to pay fees in lieu of membership dues, to the union. Petitioner Mark Janus argues that nonmember employees cannot be forced to pay such fees because unions use the fees to fund their collective bargaining advocacy, union collective bargaining advocacy is inherently political, and the First Amendment prohibits enactments forcing American to subsidize the private political speech of others. This case is of particular importance in Ohio, where 1,062 separate public employers maintain collective bargaining agreements requiring public employees who are not union members to pay agency fees to unions or be fired. These agreements affect 312,506 Ohio public employees who are forced to pay fees that average $700 per year. The 1851 Center Brief explains and argues as follows: Just as the First Amendment prevents government from prohibiting speech, it prevents government from compelling individuals to express certain views or pay subsidies for speech to which they object. Forcing public employees to subsidize unions’ collective bargaining advocacy is no different than forcing such employees to fund the lobbying of public officials, since unions advocate for highly ideological outcomes through collective bargaining that raise taxes and spending while protecting poor performance and blocking reforms. Collective bargaining advocacy can often be injurious to nonmembers’ self interests whether through raising their taxes, ensuring their own layoffs, or supporting political views they oppose. The exception to the freedom from forced political speech the Supreme Court previously created for unions overlooked the highly political, ideological, and controversial nature of the policies public sector unions advocate for through collective bargaining. "Just as no public employee may be forced to fund a political party, no public employee should be forced to fund objectionable union advocacy that has an even greater impact on our everyday lives,” explained 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. "A complete victory in Janus will protect dissenting employees’ freedom of speech. Equally important, it will end forced funding of government unions in Ohio and restore to its proper place the artificially-inflated political power unions have used to raise government spending and taxes while blocking important reforms.” "Government unions’ legal fight to deny employees the right to choose displays that their acknowledgment that they offer too little value at too high of a price," continued Thompson, "Other non-profit organizations operate on voluntary contributions, and so should unions." Janus v. AFSCME only affects the rights of public sector workers as against public sector unions. It does not address private sector agency fees, which would remain intact. Nor would a victory in Janus prevent labor unions from collecting voluntary contributions. The 1851 Center’s amicus brief in Janus v. AFSCME was coauthored by labor policy analysis Jason A. Hart. Read the 1851 Center's Amicus Brief HERE Read the 1851 Center’s Columbus Dispatch editorial supporting Right to Work HERE
Ohio city's ban on political yard signs except directly before and after elections violates free speech, property rights Toledo, OH - A federal court prohibited an Ohio city from fining citizens who display political yard signs for longer than 67 days. The ruling, made by Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick of the Northern District of Ohio, forbids the City from enforcing local zoning ordinances to stifle free speech. The Court's Order stops the City from determining which signs are "political," limiting the display of "political" yard signs on private property to periods of time just before or after an election, or imposing fines on citizens who display such signs. The ruling comes in response to a First Amendment lawsuit filed by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law on August 15, 2017 on behalf of independent Perrysburg City Council candidate Charles "Chip" Pfleghaar and other Perrysburg citizens seeking to display their discontent with Perrysburg's elected officials. The 1851 Center's lawsuit asserts that prohibiting signs on private property - or limiting the display of such signs to just two months of the year - simply because the signs reference politicians, government, or public policy issues, violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 11, Article I of the Ohio Constitution. In late July the City's zoning inspector ordered Mr. Pleghaar to remove two relatively-modest signs advocating for his own election to city council or face fines of up to $100 per day for each day he displayed the signs in his yard. The City cited its own local ordinance prohibiting signs with political messages except directly before and after elections, which it had previously cited to order citizens to remove Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton signs, as well as signs advocating for lower property taxes. In support of the ordinance, the City claims it prohibits political signs "to enhance the physical appearance of the City . . . to create an appearance that is attractive . . . and to improve traffic safety." "Ohioans should remain free to use their private property however they would like, so long as they abstain from inflicting harm on others. This of course includes displaying yard signs criticizing incumbent politicians, advocating for lower taxes, or advertising a business. When Ohio cities attempt to regulate signs on private property, they both abridge our free speech and violate our property rights at the same time," explains Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. "Yard signs are an efficient way for a homeowner to criticize public officials and identify where he or she stands on an issue. These signs are particularly important to political outsiders with lower name identification and less-established donor and political networks, and likely the ultimate example of outsider-driven grass-roots politics, as the average homeowner lacks access to media outlets or the capacity to make large donations to candidates or issues." Read the Homeowners' Complaint HERE Read the Homeowners' Motion for Preliminary Injunction HERE Read the Court's Order HERE