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Citizens May Not Be Able to Challenge Appointments to City Council

In the case of State ex rel. Baker v. Fox, 2022-Ohio-667, the Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals held that a private citizen lacked standing in a “quo warranto action” to challenge the appointment of a public official – who already held an at-large council position – to a ward council position. The purpose of a quo warranto action is to challenge the right of an individual to hold public office.

Here, the private citizen argued that the public official was unlawfully appointed to fill a ward position on city council because the public official already held an at-large position on the city council. Specifically, the private citizen argued that the appointment was unlawful because the public official was already holding an incompatible public office at the time of the appointment. Without reaching a decision on the merits of the case, the Court held that the private citizen lacked standing to bring the underlying quo warranto action in the first place.

In support of its decision to dismiss the action for lack of standing, the Court explained that the only individuals who have standing to initiate quo warranto actions are the attorney general, county prosecutors, and private individuals who claim entitlement to a public office unlawfully held by another. There was no dispute that the private citizen was neither the attorney general nor a county prosecutor. And, since the private citizen did not allege to be entitled to the city council ward seat, the private citizen lacked standing to challenge the disputed appointment. It is important to note that the outcome of this case may have been different if the private citizen was able to make a good faith argument that the private citizen was somehow entitled to the ward position.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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