Obstructing the Will of the People
Here at Show-Me Daily, we have long documented the efforts of the Missouri Municipal League to prevent this state’s citizens from voting on constitutional amendments that would severely limit abuses of eminent domain in this state. For years now, the league (its leadership is made up of elected officials from across the state) has successfully persuaded cities to use your taxpayer dollars in order to help support their effort. Part of that effort has included litigation that the filers claimed to be an attempt to get a “fair” ballot title — but, in reality, it was intended to keep the measure off the ballot entirely by so delaying the signature-gathering process that it would be impossible to collect the necessary number within the limited time available.
Up until a few weeks ago, advocates of eminent domain reform had no real proof that the Municipal League’s lawsuits had this suspected insidious purpose. On Nov. 20, however, at a meeting of the Missouri Bar Association’s Eminent Domain Committee, a managing partner in the law firm representing the Municipal League was asked to give an update on the litigation. She had this to say (audio transcript; emphasis added):
It’s not a real big update, but … um … from the standpoint of the initiative petition, uh, we did partially win, uh, in the … at the trial court level, and it’s on expedited appeal for the western district, um, which will be argued in December, with the main objective being to delay the gathering of signatures and, um, hopefully we’re … we’re accomplishing that.
Missouri Citizens for Property rights, the group spearheading the petition effort, has asked the court for permission to supplement the record with the audio evidence of the attorney’s statement, and should hear today whether the court will agree. If the court chooses to take her statement seriously, it could assign sanctions against her firm for violating the ethical rules (yes, attorneys are supposed to understand ethics) governing the legal profession.
The story has started to gain interest nationwide — as it should. It is yet another example of powerful people trying to prevent ordinary citizens from having their own say on important issues. The AP article has so far been run by media outlets in Atlanta, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Miami, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Dayton, Ohio. Here in Missouri, the story has been reported in Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, Joplin, Cape Girardeau, and St. Louis — although it is interesting to note that the Ost-Pay Ispatch-Day, for some reason, has not yet covered this story.