Exactly one year after the Lake Erie Bill of Rights was challenged by a northwest Ohio farmer, U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary ruled decisively that LEBOR was invalid.
LEBOR, passed by Toledo voters in 2019, attempted to give legal rights to Lake Erie and to give Toledoans authority to file lawsuits on behalf of the lake.
The day after the measure passed, Wood County farmer Mark Drewes filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of LEBOR.
With the ruling, Judge Zouhary noted that the verdict was not a close call. He stated that “LEBOR is unconstitutionally vague and exceeds the power of municipal government in Ohio. It is therefore invalid in its entirety.”
“It is as clear today as it was one year ago that LEBOR was invalid and counterproductive to the real measures being taken for clean water in Ohio,” said Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Adam Sharp. “We commend Mark Drewes for taking on this battle on behalf of farmers throughout the Lake Erie Watershed and we appreciate Judge Zouhary’s thoughtful verdict on this important issue.”
The City of Toledo’s aggressive defense of LEBOR has kept farmers in the watershed in limbo for over a year. As Judge Zouhary pointed out, even the simple act of planting corn or irrigating a field could have violated the vague terms of LEBOR.
Sharp said he hopes this decision can place the focus back on the efforts Ohio farmers are making to be part of the solution to water quality challenges.
Ohio Farm Bureau also recognizes the significant legal work of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease who handled the case for Mr. Drewes. “We are happy the Court vindicated our client’s clear constitutional rights. As the Court told the City of Toledo in the opinion, it was not a close call,” said lawyer Tom Fusonie.