Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Ohio Supreme Court to hear Toledo case on traffic cameras

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The city of Toledo returns to the Ohio Supreme Court in a case of its automated traffic camera program and judicial oversight.

State officials are appealing to determine if a trial court may stop a state law that cuts money to cities operating traffic cameras. Oral arguments are set for Tuesday.

In March, 2015, the Ohio General Assembly enacted legislation placing restrictions on traffic cameras. That same month, Toledo filed a challenge in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. The court imposed an injunction, which the 6th District Court of Appeals later upheld.

A budget bill passed later that year required cities to follow the state's traffic camera provisions and report when they are not in compliance of the law. Those non-compliance reports would lead to a reduced state funding. Toledo filed another motion challenging, and the appeals court again affirmed.

This case carries larger implications of judiciary power and its role of checks and balances on the legislature, said Joe McNamara, senior attorney for the city.

“If the courts can't enjoin the General Assembly from enforcing unconstitutional law, what's stopping them from violating the constitution when they feel like it?” Mr. McNamara said.

A spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, which is representing the state, did not return a call seeking comment.

State attorneys argue this county court injunction does not hold because it came two months before the reduced-funding measures were enacted. Furthermore, the law does not force compliance with camera laws, but instead makes a system allocating discretionary funding, they said.

The state constitution does not stop the legislature from placing conditions on discretionary money it provides municipalities, state officials said.

City attorneys say this creates a financial penalty for municipalities that do not follow an unconstitutional law.

Mr. McNamara said he hopes justices will agree with a lower court decision that courts enforce rulings. This is particularly important involving the legislative branch, he said.

“That's why we have a judiciary, is a check and balance on the branches of government,” Mr. McNamara said. “If a court can't enforce its orders, then I think that it is a significant blow not only to the Ohio Constitution or the power of home rule cities, but to the separation of powers doctrine in American jurisprudence.”

Contact Ryan Dunn at rdunn@theblade.com, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @RDunnBlade.

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