Last Updated: January 12, 2012
On October 12, 2008, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher was in his yard playing football with his son when Barack Obama and his campaign entourage approached, filming Mr. Obama’s interactions with the public. As a result, Mr. Wurzelbacher, an employee of a small plumbing business, was able to ask then-Presidential candidate Obama about the impact of his tax policy on small business owners. The exchange resulted in widespread media attention and Mr. Wurzelbacher was referenced in the third Presidential debate as “Joe the Plumber.”As a result of his interaction with Mr. Obama, three officials of the State of Ohio instructed state employees to access confidential government databases for information regarding Mr. Wurzelbacher. A subsequent investigation by the state’s Inspector General’s office concluded that there was “no legitimate agency function or purpose for checking on [Mr. Wurzelbacher's] name through the [confidential databases] or for authorizing these searches,” and on this basis Judicial Watch agreed to represent Mr. Wurzelbacher in a civil suit claiming that the searches were a violation of his constitutional rights.On August 4, 2010, the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio held that, while the actions of the government officials were inappropriate, Mr. Wurzelbacher’s constitutional rights were not violated and dismissed the case. Judicial Watch filed a brief with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on November 10, 2010.
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