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