Shepstone Management Company, Inc.
The CELDF radicals have lost again but anyone who thinks this matters doesn’t understand the threat the group represents to the rule of law.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has lost again. The decision, which may be found here, makes it clear why. Yet, as we cheer the decision, it’s important to realize CELDF radicals expected to lose. They’re in this game for the long-term. Unfortunately, the decision made to deny their latest attempt to turn the Constitution inside-out was a narrow one. While welcome, it doesn’t begin to address the real problem with the group and what it’s doing.
The CELDF is profoundly radical, as we have explained here numerous times. The group seeks nothing less than a totalitarian revolution under the guise of democracy. The democracy they have in mind is the sort you can find in any “people’s republic.” A select few control everything for the supposed benefit of the people. The people may have the right to vote, but other rights are nowhere to be found, certainly not property rights. Those are trumped by the rights of rocks, trees and other elements of nature for whom only the select few get to decide.
The organization has attempted to sell its radical idea by clothing it in “community rights” ordinances and charters. They all derive from a single model crafted by CELDF founder Tom Linzey – a Marxist. He, like so many trust-funder radicals, has never had a real job. He has, instead, from day one, used the privileges accorded him by the civil society to attempt to wreck and replace it. He has hop-scotched across the US relabeling his “community rights” ordinance to fit whatever local cause he could ride for free. He promoted it in Maine to fight water bottling, and Washington State to protect a river. He has spread it from Pennsylvania to New Mexico in futile attempts to tag onto the fracking issue.
Everywhere, the courts and others have rejected Linzey’s radical ideas, but he has been undeterred. He knows somewhere, some court, some day will give him a tiny opening. If not, he’ll simply await some apocalyptic economic or political event to slide his devious scheme into place. Ohio has, in that regard, provided the opportunity for Linzey to give a slightly different spin to the whole scam. The CELDF has repackaged its “community rights” ordinance as a home rule charter that would allow the banning of fracking. The group has used naive locals to repeatedly advance charter votes in the same communities. Jackie Stewart, at Energy In Depth, has covered it here.
Exasperation with these tactics has led local boards of elections and the Secretary of State to call a halt to the nonsense. They have done so by challenging a legal flaw in the CELDF charter proposals; the proposed charter petitions do not actually provide for new forms of governance. Rather, the charters seek to assert new rights of nature and the like that would undermine all other rights. The rights of nature, of course, would be represented by such as the CELDF folks. The boards of elections have rejected the proposed petition on this and similar bases. The Secretary of State has supported their decisions and now the Ohio Supreme court has as well.
The CELDF appealed the decisions of the boards of elections in Athens, Meigs, and Portage Counties, and the Secretary of State, to the Ohio Supreme Court. It upheld the decisions of all four entities, saying, in part, the following (emphasis added – the CELDF gang constitutes the “Relators”):
Article X, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution requires a county charter to set forth certain information.
“Every such charter shall provide the form of government of the county and shall determine which of its officers shall be elected and the manner of their election. It shall provide for the exercise of all powers vested in, and the performance of all duties imposed upon counties and county officers by law.”
Relators further contend that the secretary of state and the boards of elections violated another fundamental right—an asserted right to local selfgovernment—by imposing requirements on a county charter petition. However, we are reluctant to consider the broader application of Article X, Section 3 in the context of this expedited mandamus case, which seeks to place specific proposals on the ballot. Relators have failed to persuasively demonstrate why we should recognize a new fundamental right in the current proceeding.
Moreover, there is no indication that the boards of elections or the secretary of state attempted to thwart the principles of local self-government. They did not deny relators the right to establish a charter form of county government; instead, they merely examined the charter initiatives to determine whether they met the threshold requirements for inclusion on the ballot…
The proposed charters include broad language ostensibly fulfilling this requirement. Other than the name of the specified county, the language in all three proposals is identical. The relevant charter language states:
“The County * * * is responsible within its boundaries for the exercise of all powers vested in, and the performance of all duties imposed upon, counties and County officers by general law * * *
* * *
When not prescribed by the Charter or by amendment to this Charter, by local law enacted by the County Commissioners, or by local law enacted by the people, such powers shall be exercised in the manner prescribed by the Constitution of Ohio or by general law.”
Secretary Husted and the boards of elections reasonably determined that this language is insufficient to provide for the exercise of all powers vested in, and the performance of all duties imposed upon, counties and county officers. …the powers and duties are not individually delineated, forcing one to “look to sources outside the proposed charters to determine the form of government they purport to establish, and therefore they do not satisfy the legal prerequisites.”
Accordingly, we conclude that the secretary of state and boards of elections did not abuse their discretion in determining that the proposed county charters fail to satisfy the requirements under Article X, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution for a valid charter initiative.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, yes, but there are problems that could provide a future opening for the radical CELDF to make headway. First of all, it was not a unanimous decision. Five judges concurred on the decision and the reasoning. Another agreed only with the result itself and the seventh, Judge William O’Neill, voted with the CELDF. O’Neill only got elected to the Court after two previously unsuccessful runs for Congress and the Supreme Court.
Justice O’Neill’s dissent in this case makes the point that the CELDF did, by reference, specify a form of government. It’s the same one with a whole lot of new power. He also displayed a thorough bias:
To the extent that the secretary of state asks this court to apply the provisions of the Revised Code to limit the form of government that the people may adopt for themselves through Article X, Section 3, that interpretation exceeds the constitutional authority of the General Assembly and the secretary of state by invading the broad power reserved to the people. The secretary of state does not have the power to veto charter petitions on behalf of the oil and gas industry simply because the citizens did not pick exclusively from the two forms of county government delineated… This is a usurpation of power from the people that we should not indulge.
O’Neill’s animus toward the oil and gas industry is obvious, even though the principles on which the case was decided and dissented on by him had zero to do with the industry. It demonstrates the fickle nature of courts. Put another one or two such biased judges on the Ohio Supreme Court and you have New York and a different decision.
It’s also significant that the Court chose to make the decision on narrow, almost technical, grounds. It said the CELDF folks had “failed to persuasively demonstrate why we should recognize a new fundamental right in the current proceeding.” It didn’t rule it out down the road. That’s exactly the kind of thing the CELDF wanted to hear. It’s enough to make them come back again with another slightly revised version of their petition. They almost certainly will.
Most importantly, it seems everyone is reluctant to acknowledge the elephant in the room; the CELDF’s radical nature and its ultimate aims. Instead, the goal of all seems to be stop them from pestering everyone with petitions by finding a legal reason to trip them up. That’s not the kind of long-term game the CELDF is playing. It’s fine to fight them with such material but it’s not enough. Nor is the support from unions and economic development groups who legally signed onto the case in support of the counties. Justice O’Neill was once a union organizer and, yet, he rejected their plea and bought the CELDF argument because they forced the discussion into legal fine points and identified themselves as the people’s representatives against big oil and gas.
No, none of this is the way to address the CELDF. Its fundamentally radical nature must, rather, be challenged. Nothing less will do. A Federal judge did it in new Mexico and sent them scurrying. The Washington State Supreme Court did it forthrightly by patiently explaining “municipalities cannot strip constitutional rights from entities and cannot undo decisions of the United States Supreme Court.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit did it in a Pennsylvania case. It said, no, a watershed is not a legal party. The only way to curtail the nefarious CELDF is take it head-on. It’s also long past time their tax-exemption was challenged, as they do virtually nothing that is not lobbying.
Finally, it’s time to take on the shear sleaze of the operation, too. Jackie Stewart does so here, exposing the despicable way the CELDF and friends have cashed in on their scam in Ohio. There’s plenty to expose in Washington State as well. One of our readers notes the following, for example:
The Whatcom County Council is made up (almost?) entirely of social justice warriors and activist sympathizers, with a pro-CELDF and Pro-social justice/engineering supermajority and the trend is happening in other local governments as well. In Spokane, it was learned that the newest [appointed] Councilmember, attorney Breean Beggs has been an activist against pipelines since at least 2004, and has direct ties with CELDF since at least as early as 2009…
“Breean Beggs is the Director for the Center of Justice, a local non-profit law firm working to promote social justice for the citizens of Spokane. He and Jim Sheehan, who is founder of the center, had the opportunity to hear Thomas Linzey speak, and they invited him to teach [his] Democracy School in their city.”
Beggs is directly or indirectly involved with the ‘Envision Spokane’ and ‘Direct Action Spokane’ movements – both are aliases of CELDF. The CELDF ballot initiatives have failed in Spokane many times since 2008, but CELDF continues their stranglehold and relentless radicalism to promote their motives in Spokane, including the lastest attempt to stop all coal and oil shipments through Spokane and pass a ballot measure to amend the city charter to strip businesses and corporations of their rights and ‘personhood’…
In Spokane, CELDF is largely funded [more than 100,000 since approx 2008 according to www.pdc.wa.gov) by local millionare attorney James Sheehan, founder/owner of the local ‘Center for Justice’ (another group allied with CELDF) who employed Mr. Beggs as their attorney and spokesman a few years ago, and continues to have direct and indirect contact with Beggs. From April 2016 through August 2016, CELDF created another big push to ban oil and coal trains as well as pass a ballot initiative calling for the City Charter to be amended to strip corporations of rights. Beggs greatly assisted in their campaign despite being a seated City official, and did not disclose his direct past or current involvement with CELDF and ‘Center for Justice’.
Together with City Council President Ben Stuckart, Beggs pushed hard for the ordinances and ballot initiatives, often making frequent inflamatory statements in the press to panic the public about the dangers of the oil and coal trains. In one document posted online by the activists, it appears that Beggs or someone else inside City government was providing the activists with insider information, a serious criminal charge if in fact proven – if it included non-public information regarding railroad operations or other proprietary information… and may have provided material support to a terrorist organization by providing such information or advice, since the group DGRE Deep Green Resistance was apparently given such information.
This is the nature of the group that advocates for the rights of nature. It is radical to the core and needs to be fought accordingly. The Ohio Supreme Court decision, while a good one to be sure, doesn’t deal with the elephant. The elephant wasn’t even pointed out to them. Sooner or later, something has to be done about the elephant.