How the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law Chose Its Name and Why It Matters to Ohioans

Maurice Thompson

Ohio entered the Union in 1803 as America’s 17th state and — as has been routine practice for freshly-added states — Ohio established a state constitution by which to govern itself in harmony with the U.S. Constitution.  For decades, things generally seemed to function well.

But by 1851, Ohioans began to perceive the need for major structural changes in the growing state — so significant, in fact, that rather than simply amend the existing 48-year-old state constitution, a movement for a complete replacement document emerged.

A state constitutional convention assembled in Chillicothe and delegates adopted a fresh document which Ohio voters approved in a June 17, 1851 statewide referendum.  That 167-year-old Ohio Constitution remains in force today, in 2018.

A decade ago, in 2008, Columbus attorney and Ohio native, Maurice Thompson, who specializes in the still-operational 1851 Ohio Constitution, started the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.  Thompson serves as its Executive Director.

This non-profit, non-partisan law firm “dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government” maintains its office in Ohio’s Capitol city and, according to the organization’s website, “litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, taxpayer and entrepreneur rights, regulation, parental rights, and search and seizure” and actively defends “Ohioans’ right to do anything peaceful.”

The firm — dedicated to “those who simply wish to be left alone to order their lives, families, finances, businesses, and time”— represents a clientele best described as “the average Ohio taxpayer, parent, homeowner, and entrepreneur, when they find themselves threatened with loss of their homes and businesses, and threatened with fines and jail time for peaceful acts such as the sale or lease of a home, posting of a protest sign, the gathering of signatures, the refusal to pay a tax or fee, or the refusal to abide by an arbitrary government mandate.”

The firm’s mission statement makes clear a healthy disdain for government that micro-manages citizens’ choices and pilfers their hard-earned wealth and property — and is only too willing to “auction off their freedom to the highest bidder.”

Thompson, and his colleagues, seek to hold government at bay when government has the audacity to treat its citizens “as the equivalent of a milk-cow, rather than a coequal.”

The attorneys of 1851 Center for Constitutional Law distinguish themselves from other lawyers who take cases on a pro bono basis in that most who do take cases in this manner do so “to shred the fundamental tenets of human freedom rather than to protect them” whereas, the Center’s attorneys — by contrast — take pro bono cases in order to better ensure that the average Ohioan might end up standing “on equal footing with well-funded and well-connected bullies, without ever having to pay a legal bill.”

In addition to his status as an attorney and his founding of the Center, Thompson is a respected author, commentator and speaker well-known for fighting on behalf of liberty “in high-stakes constitutional rights cases” and providing “legal support for freedom-oriented ballot issues.”

He is joined by Bradley A. Smith, Chairman of the Center’s Board, who is among the “nation’s foremost experts on campaign finance law”.   According to an October 15, 2010, story in The New York Times, none other than U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, years earlier, approached Smith about a position on the Federal Election Commission — a post which Smith accepted, later rising to the rank of the panel’s Chairman in 2004.  Smith has been described as “‘the most sought after witness in Congress’ on campaign finance issues”.  During his tenure on the Federal Election Commission, Smith earned a reputation for “integrity and refusal to put partisan interests ahead of his duties, as well as his steadfast support for free speech”.

One of the Center’s Board Members, Chris Finney, is likewise an indispensable asset to the team.  He is the owner of Finney Law Firm, “where he concentrates in commercial and public interest law as well as matters of real estate law and title to real estate.”  Finney’s legal acumen is evidenced by “two wins before the United States Supreme Court in June of 2014, for clients suing the Ohio Elections Commission over their administration of the Ohio ‘False Claims’ statute, empowering a panel of bureaucrats to judge the truth or falsity of statements made during election campaigns.”  After losing a series of cases in the lower courts, Finney rebounded to prevail in “back-to-back 9-0 decisions on the cases from the US Supreme Court.”

For Ohioans of modest financial means in need of representation in a dispute revolving around fundamental rights of — including, but not limited to — citizenship, parenthood, entrepreneurship and property-ownership, The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law can be contacted by mail at 122 E. Main Street, Columbus, OH  43215; by telephone at (614) 340-9817; or via e-mail at [email protected]

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With his decade of work to gain the 27th Amendment’s incorporation into the U.S. Constitution, Gregory Watson of Texas is an internationally-recognized authority on the process by which the federal Constitution is amended.









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