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Ohio ACLU Sues Bedford Over Nuisance Ordinance

Bedford Historical District
Wikimedia Commons
Bedford Historical District

The city of Bedford is facing a lawsuit in federal court over its nuisance ordinance, which penalizes property owners after repeated calls for police service.

Attorneys from the ACLU of Ohio and Legal Aid Society of Cleveland filed the suit this week, arguing that the city’s law disproportionately affects women, people of color and people with disabilities. They also argued that the ordinance targets crime victims who call the police.

The plaintiff, Beverley Somai, lives in Bedford with her adult son, who has a disability. According to the suit, Somai called her landlord to report a downstairs neighbor who played his TV and stereo too loudly. At her landlord’s suggestion, she called the police, the complaint said.

The neighbor later followed her to the grocery store and bus stop, according to the complaint, intimidating Somai and causing her to call the police again.

“Rather than helping her, Bedford used the Ordinance to designate Ms. Somai a nuisance as a direct result of her requests for police assistance,” the complaint reads.

The suit alleges that Bedford threatened to fine Somai’s landlord after the calls, and that she’s now in eviction proceedings.

The ordinance dates back to 2005 and was updated in 2017. Citing 2005 city council meeting minutes, the lawsuit claims Bedford passed the measure in response to the city’s growing African-American population.

The city has not yet responded to a request for comment.