LEBOR case: Attorney fees request before council

Toledo City Council is set to hear the first reading Sept. 8 of an ordinance to authorize the expenditure of $207,500 to settle attorney fees for the plaintiffs in the Lake Erie Bill of Rights case.
The Columbus law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, LLP, which represented Drewes Farms Partnership in the case, is seeking the fees from the city.
Voters approved the LEBOR ballot measure by a wide margin but it was struck down on Feb. 27 of this year in U.S. District Court by Judge Jack Zouhary, who ruled it was “unconstitutionally vague and exceeds the power of municipal government in Ohio.”
Court records indicate the plaintiffs had as recently as April requested $293,752 in fees and $532 in costs.
Attorneys for the city pressed for time records and other documentation from the law firm while the fees were being negotiated and even questioned whether a third party was compensating the firm or Drewes Farms.
“Is DFP a real party in interest for the attorneys’ fees and costs award it seeks….? What fee arrangements are in place? Has any third party agreed to pay, or actually paid DFP’s attorneys’ fees or costs. Has any third party agreed to indemnify DFP or the Voyrs firm for attorneys’ fees or costs?” a motion filed by the city says.
Activists who helped put the LEBOR initiative on the ballot said the court case reflects a bias towards corporations.
“Toledo Jobs and Growth Coalition, a corporate shadow PAC that was funded by British Petroleum, spent over $300,000 to oppose LEBOR at the polls. When unsuccessful, Drewes filed their lawsuit claiming they were ‘harmed’ by the vote 12 hours after the polls closed. The State of Ohio joined the lawsuit on the side of the corporate entity, against residents and Lake Erie,” a statement by Toledoans for Safe Water says.
Terry Lodge, an attorney for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, said: “Drewes brought the lawsuit under 42 U.S. Code Section 1983, a federal civil rights law, the same law that George Floyd’s family will file suit under in Minnesota. This decision puts ‘corporate civil rights’ violations legally on a par with human beings…”
Markie Miller, of TSW, said she sees a trend in which communities are being punished for attempting to protect natural resources at the ballot box.
“Corporate interests and the state of Ohio are trying to make an example out of communities who threaten their power —but Toledoans refuse to be punished for taking steps to protect our water and assert our rights. We remember the water crisis of 2014,” she said. “There is a pattern emerging of punishing communities who push for a change to protect nature. This is similar to Grant Township, PA being slapped with attorney fees for passing a local Rights of Nature law.”
“Judge Zouhary prohibited TSW, the sponsors of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, from participating in any of the court proceedings. Now Toledoans should pay the bill from an expensive law firm that represented the agricultural industry? This one needs to go back to the drawing board,” said Mike Ferner, of Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie.


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association