Ohio Supreme Court Decision Sustains Private Property Rights

We won our Property Rights

“This court has a history of protecting property rights, and our decision today continues that long-standing precedent.

In what was a very long awaited decision, the Ohio Supreme Court released its decision in our 7 year battle for our property rights. There were actually 3 questions before the court from the Appellate Court and Trial Court decisions.

1. Did the Ohio Attorney General have standing in the Appellate Court after the Governor directed ODNR to honor private property deeds and subsequently ODNR withdrew from the appeal?

2. Did the National Wildlife Federation and the Ohio Environmental Council properly intervene in the case as allowed by the Appellate Court?

3. Did the Trial Court and the Appellate Courts rule properly that the landward extent of the public trust extended only to the place where the water and the land meet, a moving boundary, at any point in time.

The third point is most important as that was what our lawsuit was all about. In summary, the court stated:

Based on opinions of this court from as early as 1878 and the Ohio General Assembly’s statement of public policy enunciated in the Fleming Act in 1917, we conclude that the territory of Lake Erie held in trust by the state of Ohio for the people of Ohio extends to the “natural shoreline,” which is the line at which the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes.”

The Court further elaborated in their ruling,

“Having clarified that the territory of Lake Erie is held in trust forthe people of Ohio and extends to the natural shoreline, the line at which the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes, we affirm the appellate court to the extent its judgment is consistent with this pronouncement, but we reverse its decision implying that artificial fill can alter the boundary of the public trust and its decision to affirm the trial court that the boundary of the public trust changes
from moment to moment.

Regarding questions 1 and 2, the Court found that the Attorney General does have standing in the Appeal for the State since the State was a named party along with the ODNR in our lawsuit. Further the NWF and OEC likewise are proper interveners since their members who fish and otherwise recreate on and along the shores of Lake Erie have an interest in the outcome of the lawsuit.

Read the full text of the Ohio Supreme Court Decision, click Ohio Supreme Court decision (01255925)