Ohio Supreme Court hearing traffic light controversy

An article in the Toledo Blade last week revealed the Ohio Supreme Court’s agreeing to review a decision by Ohio’s 6th District Court of Appeals that said a challenge of the appeal process for red-light camera citations should not have been thrown out by a Lucas County Common Pleas judge.

“The appeals court back in June reversed a decision by Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks to dismiss a 2011 class-action lawsuit filed by Bradley Walker of Kentucky against the City of Toledo and RedFlex Traffic Systems, Inc. Mr. Walker claimed Toledo police had not established an appeals process for those cited by the cameras.”

The City of Toledo’s memorandum in support of jurisdictioncontends “The primary question presented in this appeal is simply - "Does a home rule city that creates an administrative process to review appeals of civil violations of municipal ordinances unconstitutionally interfere with the jurisdiction of the municipal court and act in violatiori of R.C. § 1901.20?" [ Walker v. City of Toledo, et al.]

Further, the City says, “The issues in this case are of great general interest and public concern. If the Court of Appeals decision stands Toledo's photo enforcement ordinance would be, according to the Sixth District's ruling, a "nullity.'' (Decision and Judgment at ¶ 36) Given the reality that many cities throughout the State have enacted similar programs, the impact of the Sixth District ruling could be profound. If other appellate districts rule differently there would be a lack of uniformity throughout the state…”

Walker’s contention in answering the appeal is that “RedFlex's and Toledo's propositions of law do not involve a substantial-and unsettled-constitutional question…. charter municipalities do not have home-rule power to regulate a court's jurisdiction. Cupps v. Toledo, 170 Ohio St. 144, 163 N.E.2d 384 (1959), paragraph one of syllabus. As of 1959, this issue is "settled by the decisions of this court." Id. at 149. Thus, 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. Here, under R.C. 1901.20(A)(1), the Toledo municipal court "has jurisdiction." But under Toledo's ordinance, that court does not have jurisdiction. Did the Sixth District correctly determine that Toledo's ordinance violates Article IV, Section 1?”

The Court last Spring opted not to hear a case of similar circumstances in the Cincinnati suburban community of Elmwood Place.[ Pruiett et al. v. Village of Elmwood Place et al.]