A proposed amendment to the state budget has some people asking whether it would allow probate court judges to penalize people who “interfere with a park district’s purposes" - including, potentially, protesters.
Gary Daniels with the ACLU of Ohio says the language of HB49 is unclear, and he hopes lawmakers realize that the current wording could be used to quell dissent.
One such example is in Geauga County, in northwest Ohio, where Probate Judge Tim Grendell has been at odds with the group “Protect Geauga Parks.”
“When you think about it in context – because Geauga County, where Judge Grendell is judge, has had several controversies with regard to its park up there," Daniels says, "it could certainly be read to say, ‘Well, actually, a Probate Court could go after someone who 'interferes with the park districts’ purposes.’”
If that’s not the goal, Daniels says, “then that language really needs to be tightened in the statute. Because right now it’s unclear."
Daniels says he can see the ACLU getting involved if the language remains as it is, but he hopes lawmakers realize that the current wording could be used to quell dissent.
A spokeswoman for Judge Grendell says the new legislation simply codifies powers already granted to probate judges, which were affirmed by a 2016 Ohio Supreme Court ruling.