Lake rights supporters reply to state dismissal request

Larry Limpf

Three Toledo residents have filed a response in their lawsuit against the State of Ohio seeking a declaration from the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas that the Lake Erie Bill of Rights is enforceable in its entirety under the state constitution.
Plaintiffs Mike Ferner, John Michael Durback, and Bryan Twitchell of Toledo are supporters of the LEBOR, a charter amendment approved by Toledo voters last February.
Their recent filing is in response to the state’s motion to dismiss the case. The attorney general last month argued in a complaint the three plaintiffs lack standing to bring the lawsuit and there isn’t a legal basis for precluding the state, through the attorney general, from defending state interests in Lake Erie and state environmental, natural resources and agriculture laws.
Ferner last week said, "The state wants us to believe first, that citizens can be pacified by what it considers just pretty words in Ohio’s constitution and second, that it has sole authority to protect Lake Erie and has done so. We hope what the state claims in its motion will sound as outrageous to Judge Goulding as they do to the three of us and to anyone with a brain in their head."
“American law is failing to respond to the seriousness of ecological collapse, this lawsuit presents the court with another opportunity to bring Ohio law to the higher standard being held by the people demanding the necessary legal change required to adequately and immediately address the current climate and environmental crisis,” the complaint by the three says.
Shortly after Toledo voters approved the LEBOR ballot initiative, the Drewes Farms Partnership filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to block its enactment.
The initiative amends the Toledo City Charter and gives Lake Erie recognition as an ecosystem with the right to “exist, flourish and naturally evolve.”
Recently, attorneys for the city filed a challenge to Drewes’ existence as a functioning partnership and the consequent legal standing to have filed the lawsuit.
On May 24, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a complaint with the federal court to seek a permanent injunction to invalidate the LEBOR.
Yost’s complaint argues the charter amendment “purports to grant rights that exceed the city’s authority and conflict with Ohio environmental, agricultural, natural resources, and corporate laws. Thus, the charter amendment is preempted by the general laws of Ohio.”


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