ACLU Victorious in First Challenge to Ohio Patriot Act

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
September 13, 2006 12:00 am

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Attorneys Not Required to Sign Terrorism Oaths, State High Court Rules

COLUMBUS, OH — Today, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that attorneys seeking to represent indigent clients are no longer required to sign documents swearing that they are not terrorists and have no involvement with terrorist groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio had challenged the provision, which is part of the Ohio Patriot Act, calling the requirement unnecessary red tape that will do nothing to prevent terrorism.

“We are pleased the court recognized that attorneys should not be forced to sign these ineffective and offensive pledges,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “The Ohio Patriot Act is an assault on the fundamental liberties of all Ohioans. Hopefully, this decision is a stepping stone to reining in this overreaching and flawed law.”

Since the Ohio Patriot Act was enacted on April 14, 2006, the ACLU of Ohio has been inundated with questions and requests for aide from business professionals, lawyers, academics and various private companies who have all been forced to sign the terrorism oaths. Today’s decision marks the first successful challenge to the pledges.

The court specifically ruled that requiring the pledges from court-appointed attorneys fell outside of the act’s definition of those who should sign the pledges.

When first introduced in the Ohio General Assembly in 2005, the Ohio Patriot Act came under intense scrutiny from civil rights, public advocacy and community groups because of concerns of racial and ethnic profiling, increased bureaucracy and ineffective practices to prevent terrorist attacks in Ohio. Recently, the terrorism oath provision has come under fire from members of the state government because it has led to increased workloads, less government transparency and widespread confusion over who is required to sign the pledges.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan ACLU of Ohio has offices in Cleveland and Cincinnati and community and campus chapters located throughout the state. Due to a recent increase in membership, there are now almost 30,000 ACLU members and supporters in Ohio and more than 550,000 nationwide.

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