The lengthy saga that is the challenge to the Ohio statute making it a criminal offense to lie during the course of a political campaign reaches its latest chapter on December 10 at 9 AM.
Followers of our blog know that Susan B. Anthony List, et al. v. Ohio Elections Commission was first brought in 2010 to challenge the Ohio statute arising from the 1st District Congressional Campaign of Chabot v. Driehaus. In that campaign, a third party group wanted to advertise that Steve Driehaus’ vote for OabamaCare was a vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortions. Steve Driehaus challenged that statement as a lie and a criminal offense with a complaint before the Ohio Elections Commission.
In response, Susan B. Anthony List challenged the constitutionality of the statute in federal court, and Finney Law Firm client, COAST, joined the suit asserting that it wanted to make similar statements but was “chilled” as a result of the oppressive enforcement scheme.
The District Court and the 6th Circuit found that Plaintiffs did not have standing as they “abstained” while the OEC matter was pending. That issue ascended to the United States Supreme Court in 2014, resulting in a 9-0 decision in favor of our clients. But all that Supreme Court decision did was place the matter back before the District Court.
In September of last year, Judge Timothy Black declared the statute unconstitutional and enjoined its further application — a complete win on the merits for the Plaintiffs. That decision has been on appeal for more than a year to the 6th Circuit, and the December oral argument signals a decision by mid-2016 that, hopefully, will affirm Judge Black’s decision.
So, we have maybe another year of litigation over this issue, but soon the OEC’s control of speech in Ohio will be ended.