Taxpayer lawsuit case appealed to high court
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
1/08/13 at 6:44 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday to overturn a 2011 law making it more difficult for taxpayers to file lawsuits against the government.
He is appealing an Oklahoma County district judge's decision to toss out the case, which names Gov. Mary Fallin as a defendant.
Fent, who has successfully overturned several laws through lawsuits, said a law increasing the required number of signatures to 100 from 10 for the filing of taxpayer lawsuits violates the Oklahoma and U.S. constitutions.
The signatures could also be equal to 0.25 percent of the registered voters in the state, county, city or town or school, whichever is less, according to the law.
Fent said the law is an impermissible special law.
Fent is seeking a hearing before the full court.
He said the measure violates another Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling tossing out a requirement that medical negligence lawsuits be accompanied by a certificate of merit.
The state's high court ruled that requirement created a monetary barrier to the courts by requiring an expert witness to attest to a case's merits.
Fent said the law also bars taxpayers who are not registered voters from seeking to file suit against the government.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Chad Payne, is a taxpayer but not a registered voter.
Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, supports the idea of increasing the required number of signatures for a taxpayer lawsuit.
He said the process has been abused in the past, costing local governments money to defend.
"It becomes very expensive for the local government entity to not only defend that lawsuit but also to, after they win, see if they can recover any lost money," Crain said. "People in Oklahoma expect taxpayer dollars will be wisely spent."
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465