“This is Not a Close Call”: Federal Judge Rules Lake Erie Bill of Rights Unconstitutional

Last week, U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary struck down Toledo’s Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) deeming it unconstitutional. In his ruling, he noted that Toledo did not have the legal authority to enforce this city charter on other cities and states, as well as Canada.

In February 2019, with only 9% voter turnout, Toledo residents passed an initiative that granted judicially enforceable rights to Lake Erie and allowed Toledo citizens to take legal action on the lake’s behalf. When the charter amendment was passed, businesses could have been subjected to lawsuits for practices that otherwise fully comply with state and federal environmental laws. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce strongly opposed this extreme anti-business, out-of-state funded initiative.

Shortly after the passage of LEBOR, Drewes Farms Partnership filed a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy initiative, claiming it was, “unconstitutional and unlawful.” Nearly a year later, Judge Zouhary ruled in favor of Drewes Farms and stated that, “LEBOR is unconstitutionally vague and exceeds the power of municipal government in Ohio.” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also applauded the ruling stating, “Let’s save Lake Erie – but do it legally. As Judge Zouhary said, the Lake Erie Bills of Rights is ‘a textbook example of what municipal government cannot do.’”

With the invalidation of Toledo’s LEBOR, the business community will have more regulatory certainty when in comes to environmental protection.