For a second time, Ohio Attorney General David Yost’s office has rejected the Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity (OCEQI) summary of petition. Undeterred, the OCEQI plans on submitting for a third time, but their patience with AG Yost is wearing thin.

“This is normal for the AG,” said OCEQI’s Cynthia Brown, who lost a nephew to Columbus police. “Most ballot initiative petitions are turned down multiple times.”

However, added Brown, “Yost doesn’t want government officials held accountable, or jobs terminated when they violate clearly violate Ohioans’ civil liberties or individual rights.”

The OCEQI is seeking to end qualified immunity by placing a citizen-led initiative on a future ballot hoping voters will amend the state Constitution. Their proposed amendment this time around was titled, “Protecting Ohioans Constitutional Rights”.

The AG’s office in a press release stated “the petition process is to determine whether the language submitted is a fair and truthful summary of the proposed statute or constitutional amendment. The submitted petition does not meet that requirement.”

The AG’s office further stated, “We identified omissions and misstatements that, as a whole, would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed amendment.”

Back in December the OCEQI submitted the necessary 1,000 signatures seeking to approve a summary for “The Ohio Civil Liberties Restoration Act.” AG Yost’s office rejected this first proposed summary, stating, “The summary does not properly advise a potential signer of the proposed amended statute’s character and limitations” and that the title is “misleading.”

Qualified immunity is a legal loophole that makes it almost impossible to sue government officials and politicians when Constitutional rights are violated. The doctrine was established by the US Supreme Court in 1967 and it shields government officials, including law enforcement officers, from being held personally liable for civil damages.

Having the AG’s office approve an amendment’s summary is the first significant hurdle needed to amend the Ohio Constitution.

Brown says the existence of qualified immunity has led to a lack of accountability for law enforcement officers and has hindered the ability for citizens to seek justice for the misconduct of rogue officers.

Ending qualified immunity would ensure that government officials, including law enforcement officers, are held accountable for their actions. It would also promote transparency and accountability within law enforcement and would give victims of misconduct the ability to seek justice.

“Under our proposed amendment, the proper defendant would be the government employer, not the government employee,” said Brown. “If a person wins their case against the government, then the government would be required to take ‘reasonable measures’ to prevent a similar rights violation from occurring.”

If OCEQI’s summary is approved by AG Yost, the Ohio Ballot Board determines whether the proposal contains a single law or multiple laws. If the board certifies the petition, the group must collect signatures from at least three percent of registered voters based on the ballots cast in the last gubernatorial election.

Those signatures must come from at least 44 of the state’s 88 counties, and in each of those counties, the number must be at least 1.5 percent of the vote cast in the last gubernatorial election.

Late last year, the Ohio House advanced a proposal which would require a 60 percent voter approval for any citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to pass.

Thus it could become harder to pass a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, which is no surprise coming from the GOP-dominated Statehouse.

Ending qualified immunity is being advocated in many states, and in December, the Nevada Supreme Court essentially ended qualified immunity in Nevada.

“To put this in perspective,” says Brown, “before Dec 29, 2022, in Nevada, if you had been assaulted by a police officer, your child assaulted by a teacher, or any public worker violated your rights, you most likely wouldn’t have been successful in a lawsuit. Now because of this decision you can.”