Ohio Supreme Court hearing traffic cameras case

Cincinnati.com article related the Ohio Supreme Court’s this morning hearing the appeal by the City of Toledo and its camera vendor of  rulings favoring of a motorist who sued over a 2009 camera-generated ticket, charging that  city's administrative handling of tickets was unconstitutionally bypasses the court system.

Toledo contends that the camera systems are allowed under local self-governing powers provided by the Ohio Constitution, and that motorists still have the ability to take their cases to the courts.

The motorist, Bradley  Walker, was cited for a civil violation of Toledo's photo enforced traffic code, was issued a "Notice of Liability," and conceded in his initial complaint that the "Notice” provides a twenty-one (21) day period to request a hearing on the "Notice,” which he opted not to pursue and instead paid the $120 fine assessed. [Court's docket]

Toledo’s traffic camera ordinance [TMC §313.12(d)], court documents show, specify the penalty, administrative appeal and enforcement provisions, Section (d)(4), specifically providing that "A notice of appeal shall be filed with the Hearing Officer within twenty-one (21) days from the date listed on the `Notice of Liability', and failure to give notice of appeal or pay the civil penalty within this time period constitute a waiver of the right to contest the citation and are considered an admission. Appeals shall be heard through an administrative  process established by the City of Toledo Police Department. A decision in favor of the City of Toledo may be enforced by means of a civil action, or any other means provided by the Ohio Revised Code."

Walker filed a complaint in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on February 24, 2011 on behalf of himself and "those similarly situated," seeking return of all monies that the City and Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc. had collected under Toledo's traffic camera enforcement system, alleging that TMC § 313.12 was unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, most significantly that TMC § 313.12 improperly deprived the Toledo Municipal Court of jurisdiction thereby violating Ohio Constitution Art. IV, § 1 and  was invalid under the theory that it failed to afford him and similarly situated individuals due process and equal protection under the Constitutions of the State of Ohio and United States. Neither  defendant  answered Walker's complaint nor was discovery undertaken in the case.

Lucas County Common Pleas Court granted the City's and Redflex's motions to dismiss, specifically rejecting Walker’s arguments that Toledo Municipal Code §313.12 was an invalid delegation of the administrative process or that such process violated due process or equal protection under the United States and State of Ohio's Constitutions. The trial court also held that Ohio Revised Code § 1901.20 does not give the "Toledo Municipal Court exclusive jurisdiction over violations issued pursuant to Toledo Municipal Code §313.I2.

Walker appealed, and on June 28, 2013 a divided panel of the Sixth District reversed the trial court's grant of dismissal, the majority opining, inter alia, that R.C. § 1901.20 vested municipal courts with exclusive jurisdiction over violations of all City ordinances and, therefore, TMC § 313.12 "violates Ohio Constitution, Article IV, Section 1, and is therefore a nullity." The majority further ruled that Walker's due process challenge was at least sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.

The matter was remanded and the trial court has stayed proceedings pending the outcome of this appeal.

 Toledo says “It is well established that the City has home rule authority under the Ohio Constitution  ArticIe XVIII, Section 3.Mendenhall v. Akron, 117 Ohio St.3d 33, 2008-Ohio-270, 881 N.E.2d 255, and pursuant to its constitutionally granted home rule authority, the City possesses broad legislative powers. State ex rel. Gordon v. Rhodes,  156 Ohio St. 81, 100 N.:C:.2d 225 (1951)….  legislation adopted pursuant to the City's home rule powers is presumed to be constitutional Hudson v. AIbrecht,  9 Ohio St.3d 69,71, 458 N.E.2d 852 (1984), and this presumption can only be overcome by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.   State v. Lowe, 11.2 Ohio St.3d 507, 2007-Ohio-606, 861 N.E.2d 512, 17, citing Klein v. Leis,  99  Ohio St.3d 37, 2003-Ohio-4779, 795 N.E.2d 633, T 4. The City's home rule authority extends to the authority to establish administrative boards, commissions, and hearings. See  Willoughby Hills v. C.C. Bar's Sahara,   64 Ohio St.3d 24, 1992 Ohio 111. 591 N.E.2d 1203.”

Walker’s position is that “Under Article IV, Section 1, the General Assembly has the exclusive power to create courts  and define their jurisdiction, and, therefore, charter municipalities do not have home-rule power to regulate a court's jurisdiction, citing  Cupps v. Toledo, 170 Ohio St. 144, 163 N.E.2d 384 (1959), and, as of 1959, this issue is "settled by the decisions of this court… If a court's jurisdiction would be different under an ordinance than it is under a statute enacted by the General Assembly, then the ordinance is unconstitutional…"