Dann files merit brief in controversial case

John O'Brien Apr. 18, 2007, 3:00pm


COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann recently defended his position on the veto of Senate Bill 117, which paved the way for his lawsuit against lead paint manufacturers and is being challenged by the General Assembly.

On Monday, Dann filed a merit brief in the case, which is scheduled to be heard May 1. The General Assembly is claiming that incoming Gov. Ted Strickland's January veto of the bill was improper, while Dann calls the suit "misguided."

"As I have stated repeatedly, we believe the counsel we gave Gov. Strickland was based on an accurate reading of the Constitution, the law and legal precedent and we are confident the Court will uphold his veto," Dann said.

Senate Bill 117 would have prevented lawsuits against lead paint manufacturers and also restricted claims for the costs of cleaning up lead paint in older buildings.

It was passed by the General Assembly shortly before former Gov. Bob Taft left office to make way for Strickland.

The Assembly says Taft did not act on the bill during the 10-day period after it was passed by the Legislature, effectively making the bill a law when it was sent to Brunner's office.

However, the two sides are arguing on when that 10-day period started. Strickland claims he still had time to veto the bill when he took office.

Strickland did veto the bill in January, and was congratulated by Dann, who filed his public nuisance lawsuit against the paint companies last week. The General Assembly's lawsuit is filed against Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

"Relators' claims are, at best, an ill-conceived effort to reverse a veto decision with which they disagree and, at worst, an effort to aggrandize their own powers at the expense of a coordinate branch. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below, and in the Secretary of State's Motion to Dismiss, the Court should reject this misguided effort," Dann wrote in his brief.

Dann claims Brunner fulfilled all her legal duties with regard to the bill and cannot prevent Strickland from exercising his power to veto legislation passed by the General Assembly. He also claims the legislators lack standing to bring the case, and a mandamus action is not the proper remedy.

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch has been victorious against three companies -- two of which who have already filed an appeal to the state's Supreme Court -- in his state's suit, the first of its kind.

Some experts thought other states would wait to see how Rhode Island's suit was decided in the state's Supreme Court before they filed similar suits, though several municipalities have filed suit.

More News