Top Ohio court to hear traffic camera arguments

CINCINNATI (AP) – The Ohio Supreme Court plans to hear arguments in two months on the use of traffic cameras, in a case one group says could affect every state resident who drives or owns a vehicle.

Court records show the justices scheduled oral arguments for June 11 in a motorist’s challenge of a red-light citation in Toledo. The motorist says the city’s system is bypassing the judiciary and violating his constitutional due process rights. The state’s highest court likely will have a decisive say on a growing movement against camera enforcement that has seen motorists win recent lawsuits in several other municipalities. The court could deliver its ruling by the end of this year.

“It’s moving at a good pace,” Andrew Mayle, a Fremont attorney representing driver Bradley Walker in his challenge, said Tuesday. “We’re ready to go.”

Critics of camera enforcement against speeding and running red lights say the systems are revenue-raisers that violate basic rights. Cities with cameras contend that state law allows them to handle such matters administratively. They also defend cameras as helpful in stretching police resources and making communities safer.

“I see it as a significant public safety issue,” Toledo law director Adam Loukx said. He said that while drivers might resent the inconvenience and cost of the citations, he’s more concerned about preventing death and destruction on the city’s streets.

Nearly 30 Ohio legislators and two civil liberties groups have backed the camera-use challenge in legal briefs filed with the state Supreme Court. Among them are sponsors of pending legislation that would ban or restrict camera enforcement statewide.

Other Ohio cities, including Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton, that use cameras also have filed briefs in support of Toledo. The Ohio Municipal League said the case could potentially affect “every Ohioan who drives or owns a vehicle.” Briefs from the cities contend that Ohio law lets them use administrative systems for zoning and other issues, and that forcing them into courts over traffic citations would be costly and clog the judiciary.

The cities are backed by companies that operate the camera systems in exchange for a portion of the revenues.

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld camera use by the city of Akron in a 2008 case, but a flurry of recent lower-court rulings have called camera enforcement systems unconstitutional.

Judges ordered the southwest Ohio villages of Elmwood Place and New Miami to shut off the cameras. A Hamilton County judge compared Elmwood Place’s camera system to a con man’s card game. Lawyers for motorists in those cases recently sued the city of Dayton.

Mayle represents a motorist in a case in which state appellate judges ruled against Cleveland’s camera enforcement system for handling appeals administratively, but the judges wouldn’t order refunds for those who paid citations. Mayle and other attorneys have argued that motorists are afraid not to pay citations because they could face further costs and marks on their credit scores while appealing.

Mayle has asked the Supreme Court to resolve conflicting rulings on the refund issue. He said Tuesday that if the court decided to combine the Cleveland and Toledo cases, that could delay the oral arguments.

Meanwhile, Justice Terrence O’Donnell removed himself from the Toledo case for an unspecified reason. An appellate judge will fill in on the seven-justice court for the case.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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