Behind Zach Klein's Ambitious Lawsuits: 'Columbus Has an Important Voice to Be Heard'

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein is using amicus briefs and lawsuits to have a say on national policy issues that affect city residents.

Suzanne Goldsmith
Columbus Monthly
Zach Klein

In September, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a challenge to Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law. The city’s brief, arguing that residents of cities like Columbus would be disproportionately affected if such laws proliferate because of racial disparities in access to health care, was joined by 29 cities and counties.

Weighing in on a lawsuit over abortion in a distant state might seem like a stretch for an elected official whose core responsibility is to defend the city from lawsuits and to prosecute local misdemeanors. But Klein says there’s a pressing need for Columbus to speak out on national policy issues that affect its residents.

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“Especially at the beginning of the Trump administration, with the assault on women’s reproductive rights, assaults on health care—a lot of the cities that were leading the charges were those on the East and West coasts,” Klein says in an interview. “Columbus has an important voice to be heard.”

Indeed, one of Klein’s first moves in office was to sue the Trump administration, claiming a failure to properly implement the Affordable Care Act. In all, Klein’s office has filed eight original lawsuits against entities ranging from Purdue Pharma to the U.S. Department of Commerce, taking a stand on issues from background checks for gun purchases (the process needed to be improved, Klein said) to whether non-citizens should be counted in the census (they should, he argued) to a so-called Clean Energy rider that added fees to residents’ electric bills. (The fee was repealed.)

“I felt that the people that I represent, the 14th largest city in the United States, ... all 900,000 people: They also care deeply about these issues.”

This story is from the November 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.