After four long years of litigation, this week COAST prevailed in front of federal district court Judge Mike Barrett with his finding that the City's policy of allowing pro-tax citizen groups to use interior areas of City Hall, but discriminating against anti-tax groups COAST and WeDemandAVote.Com in preventing similar access, was unconstitutional. During the litigation, the City amended its policy purporting to prevent any such illegal events in the future (we will see).
In late February of 2008, Cincinnatians Active to Support Education (CASE), the pro-levy political action committee, held a rally and press conference on the interior front stairs of Cincinnati City Hall asking voters to vote in favor of the school levy on the ballot in March of that year. This was the third such rally and media event in that same area since 2000.
In response, COAST and WeDemandAVote.Com twice asked the City Manager for permission to use that same area for a rally and press conference. COAST was denied permission.
Thus, Cincinnati's democrats continued their illegal and unconstitutional tradition of using taxpayer resources to fuel their political machine. Indeed, they have repeatedly thumbed their noses at Ohio law and the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment "equal access" principles in so abusing the public property to which they have been entrusted. Among these laws the City was violating was a COAST-backed Charter Amendment from 2002 that specifically outlawed the use of City monies to aid political campaigns.
In response to the illegal practices of the City, COAST's attorneys swung into action, and sued in July of 2008. However, the City Administration and elected officials had no intention of relinquishing this power to abuse the public property and the public fisc. Federal Judge Barrett promptly issued a Temporary Restraining Order and then Preliminary Injunction against the unconstitutional policies and practices of the City.
But the City, which can't fund its police and firefighters, appears to have unlimited resources to defend its illegal policies, rather than just change them. It appealed the preliminary injunction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court -- and lost in October of 2010.
That crisp rejection of the City's policy still did not dissuade them, and over the ensuing two years, COAST's attorneys fought five separate motions to dismiss from the CIty, conducted some 16 depositions of City officials, and argued procedural motion after procedural motion before Judge Barrett.
Finally, this week, Judge Barrett concluded that litigation with a finding that the City's policies were in fact unconstitutional. The City, two months earlier, facing an injunction against its illegal conduct, finally changed its policy. It appears unlikely that CASE will have any more rallies inside City Hall.
COAST thanks its counsel, Christopher Finney and Curt Hartman, for their quality lawyering and persistence in forcing the City to change its abusive conduct, once and for all.