After filing a lawsuit that led to the striking down of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, corporate ‘person’ uses civil rights law to demand attorney fees from the City of Toledo for its fleeting defense of the people’s law. Residents are calling on the City Council to refuse.

For Immediate Release

September 3, 2020

Tish O’Dell
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Ohio Community Organizer

Markie Miller
Crystal Jankwoski
Toledoans for Safe Water

Toledo, OH: The international corporate law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP is seeking $207,500 in attorney fees from the City of Toledo. The corporate law firm filed a federal lawsuit representing Drewes Farms Partnerships against the City of Toledo hours after voters passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) in 2019.

Toledo Council members will now review and vote on an ordinance authorizing the payment of attorney fees to the corporate plaintiff. Residents are calling on councilors to vote no and refuse to pay.

“Corporate interests and the state of Ohio are trying to make an example out of communities who threaten their power—but Toledoans refuse to be punished for taking steps to protect our water and assert our rights. We remember the Water Crisis of 2014,” said Markie Miller of TSW. “There is a pattern emerging of punishing communities who push for a change to protect Nature. This is similar to Grant Township, PA being slapped with attorney fees for passing a local Rights of Nature law.”

Terry Lodge, an attorney for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, said, “Drewes brought the lawsuit under 42 U.S. Code Section 1983, a federal civil rights law,  the same law that George Floyd’s family will file suit under in Minnesota. This decision puts ‘corporate civil rights’ violations legally on a par with human beings whose lives are senselessly lost by excessive police force.”

“Judge Zouhary prohibited TSW, the sponsors of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, from participating in any of the court proceedings. Now Toledoans should pay the bill from an expensive law firm that represented the agricultural industry? This one needs to go back to the drawing board,” said Mike Ferner of Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie.

The popular concept that Nature’s rights supersede the claimed rights of corporations continues to strike a nerve, evidenced by mounting corporate attempts to stop it. People continue to rally for Lake Erie and Rights of Nature.

Since CELDF began supporting Ohio communities in protecting themselves from fracking and other harms, this law firm has represented other clients across the state to interfere in local democratic initiatives, and to obstruct the growing Rights of Nature movement.


About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is building a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international level.

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