The Supreme Court of Ohio on Friday, August 19, 2011, scuttled a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the JobsOhio legislation (House Bill 1) enacted earlier this year. Petitioners ProgressOhio.org, State Senator Michael Skindell (D—Lakewood), and State Representative Dennis Murray (D—Sandusky) had brought the suit in the Supreme Court, invoking a provision in the law that declared the Supreme Court to be the exclusive court in which to challenge JobsOhio’s constitutional validity. Finding that provision unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the lawsuit.
The Petitioners’ lawsuit sought both a declaratory judgment that H.B. 1 is unconstitutional and an injunction prohibiting the state from acting under its provisions. The lawsuit alleged that H.B. 1 violated the Ohio Constitution in a number of ways, including, ironically, its provision empowering the Supreme Court to exercise “original jurisdiction” over any lawsuit contesting the law’s validity. The Supreme Court observed that the Ohio Constitution expressly limited the Supreme Court’s “original jurisdiction” to seven specific types of cases. A lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to invalidate H.B. 1 falls under none of these types of cases. And because an act of the legislature cannot override the Ohio Constitution, the Supreme Court held that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the Petitioners’ lawsuit. Thus, H.B. 1’s attempt to enlarge the Supreme Court’s “original jurisdiction” was unconstitutional.
Also in its decision, the Supreme Court addressed the effect of a provision in Amended Substitute House Bill 153, which amended the JobsOhio legislation to vest original jurisdiction in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, instead of the Supreme Court of Ohio, over any claim alleging that JobsOhio is unconstitutional. Though the Supreme Court noted that H.B. 153 was not “retroactive”—and therefore did not technically apply to the Petitioners’ lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court—the Supreme Court nonetheless observed that H.B. 153 provided a proper forum for the Petitioners’ claims.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, a lawsuit challenging JobsOhio’s constitutionality will likely find its way to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in the near future. The Supreme Court of Ohio may eventually weigh in on the issue—but it will do so later (in an appeal) rather than sooner.
The case is ProgressOhio.org, Inc., et al. v. Kasich, Governor, et al., Slip Opinion 2011-Ohio-4101 (Aug. 19, 2011).