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Published: Tuesday, 1/28/2014

Ohio cities back Toledo in traffic camera case

ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Ohio Supreme Court could rule in the Toledo case late this year, depending on how long court filings and arguments take. The Ohio Supreme Court could rule in the Toledo case late this year, depending on how long court filings and arguments take.
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CINCINNATI  — After a string of rulings against traffic cameras, cities that use them are urging the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold the automated speeding and red-light enforcement.

Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton and East Cleveland all are part of legal briefs filed in recent days supporting Toledo’s cameras. An appeals court ruled last year for a motorist ticketed in the Glass City. His lawsuit contends Toledo’s system usurps municipal court jurisdiction and violates motorists’ rights by giving them limited ability to contest camera citations.

A brief filed jointly by the Ohio Municipal League, Columbus and Dayton warns that the Sixth District Court of Appeals ruling “has set a dangerous precedent that could lead to immense disruptions in city administrations throughout the Ohio.” It says the case could potentially affect “every Ohioan who drives or owns a vehicle.”

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld speeding cameras in a 2008 Akron case, and traffic cameras have withstood other court challenges in the state.

But last year, a Hamilton County judge ordered a stop to speeding cameras in a Cincinnati-area village, Elmwood Place, calling them “a scam” against motorists. Last week, another state appeals court ruled against Cleveland’s traffic camera system on grounds similar to the Toledo ruling, while Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman said Elmwood Place should pay some $1.8 million to ticketed motorists if an appeals court upholds class action status.

In the Toledo case, driver Bradley Walker didn’t argue directly against camera use, but said the system lacks the required due process to allow motorists their day in court.

The latest legal briefs contend that Ohio law allows cities to handle a variety of matters administratively, and that forcing them into courts would be costly and clog the judiciary.

“If a person received a notice of violation of a local ordinance prohibiting tall grass and disagreed with the content of the notice, he would no longer be able to appeal to a non-formal administrative proceeding but, instead, would have to go to municipal court and unnecessarily endure lengthy, formal and costly proceedings,” attorneys for Toledo wrote to the court, contending that the Sixth District ruling “got it terribly wrong.”

Andrew Mayle, a Fremont attorney who represents both Walker and the driver in the Cleveland case, said he’ll soon be filing his response.

“It seems like they’re making some of the same arguments that have been rejected already,” Mayle said today. “Basically what they’re arguing is that a city has the power to pick and choose when its ordinances are enforced in court and when they’re not.”

Camera enforcement has been spreading nationally. Supporters say cameras stretch police resources and make communities safer. Opponents charge that they are revenue-raisers that violate constitutional rights.

Some Ohio legislators want to ban or restrict traffic cameras statewide, while legal challenges in at least five municipalities are working through courts.

The Ohio Supreme Court could rule in the Toledo case late this year, depending on how long court filings and arguments take.



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