Lake Erie Residents Defend Property Rights Before Ohio Supreme Court
Sheffield Lake, OH – The Ohio Lakefront Group, a coalition of over 7,000 Lake Erie property owners, yesterday filed written arguments in the Ohio Supreme Court in its ongoing action against the state of Ohio’s unlawful and uncompensated taking of privately owned land. The property owners were joined by former Attorney General Betty Montgomery and 13 independent groups, who filed amicus briefs in support of the property owners’ legal arguments.
The property owners asked the Ohio Supreme Court to affirm the decision of the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, which restored their legal property rights and rebuked the state. The appeals court – upholding nearly 200 years of legal precedent – ruled that shoreline residents’ deeded property claims are valid. In many cases, the deeded property extends to the water’s edge and pre-date Ohio statehood. Further, the appeals court said the state acted improperly and without legal authority in taking deeded land without properly compensating property owners.
“We respectfully ask the high court to end the injustice created by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ and Attorney General Richard Cordray’s rejection of our private property rights,” said Ohio Lakefront Group President Tony Yankel. “Mr. Cordray and state officials have refused to accept prior court rulings and the written legal opinions of former Ohio attorneys general Betty Montgomery and Lee Fisher. The state is trying to rewrite our deeds at the expense of our legal rights and without legislative approval.”
Former Attorney General Betty Montgomery advised the high court that during her tenure as attorney general she issued an opinion addressing the state’s ownership of Lake Erie lakeward of the “natural shoreline,” which moves with the water’s edge – bolstering the property owners’ legal arguments. “I have an interest in ensuring that the opinions issued by the Attorney General’s office are given due weight as persuasive authority in Ohio, and also in protecting the private property rights of Ohio’s citizens,” former Attorney General Montgomery wrote in her amicus brief.
In addition, Ms. Montgomery noted that former Attorney General Lee Fisher’s opinion issued in 1993, as well as her current amicus filing, is consistent with the Eleventh District Appellate Court’s ruling.
Joining Attorney General Montgomery in filing amicus briefs were: the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation; National Federation of Independent Business; Cleveland Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 8 jointly with the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association; the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law; Brookwood-Cresthaven Beach Club, Inc. jointly with the Linwood Park Company; Ohio Association of REALTORS, jointly with the Willo-Beach Park Association, Inc; Geauga Constitutional Council; Pacific Legal Foundation; Save Our Shoreline (Michigan); and Southeastern Legal Foundation, Inc.
Ohio law and past legal precedents say the state’s interest in the waters and submerged lands of Lake Erie does not extend beyond the water’s edge. However, under a controversial action initiated by former Gov. Bob Taft and pursued by former Attorney General Marc Dann, the state sought to claim the land along the Lake Erie shoreline for its own purposes. Property owners brought legal action against the state and were successful in federal court, common pleas court and the court of appeals. Former Attorney General Dann appealed the case to the Court of Appeals. Attorney General Cordray is continuing the Dann case.
“Mr. Cordray wants us to pay rent to the state for land our deeds say we already own,” said Yankel. “If he is successful, what will the state attempt to take next?”
Also filing Merit Briefs as individuals whose cases were combined with the OLG Class Action were Homer S. Taft;
L. Scot and Darla J. Duncan
Following are copies of filings made with the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday in support of the Ohio Lakefront Group.