Columbus, OH - The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today 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's amicus brief argues 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 brief, which takes no position on the substantive issue at this stage - - 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 1851 Center's Brief is a clarion call to all Ohioans to pay attention to Ohio's judicial branch, which, in instances such as this, chips away at the state constitution through procedural artifice."
Read the Amicus Brief here.