7/2/2013Ohio Court of Appeals Rules Against Toledo Photo Ticket Program
Photo enforcement administrative hearings in Toledo, Ohio ruled unconstitutional by Court of Appeals.
Ohio's second highest court gave the green light to a red light camera lawsuit on Friday. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals agreed that Bradley L. Walker could continue his class action lawsuit against Toledo and Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian vendor that owns and operates every aspect of the system, because the city's camera ordinance violates the state constitution.
Redflex mailed Walker a $120 ticket in February 2011, and the motorist charged that the "civil penalty" he received violated the state constitution. First, the city established an administrative hearing officer to handle the violation, usurping the municipal court's jurisdiction. Second, Toledo Police were given no guidance and could adjudicate decisions without any governing principles. Third, there was no set administrative procedure to contest a ticket, violating due process. For these reasons, Walker argued Toledo and Redflex unjustly enriched themselves and that every dollar taken from motorists should be refunded.
The Lucas County Court of Common Pleas found no merit in these arguments and dismissed the suit. Toledo and Redflex argued together that the Ohio Supreme Court had settled the question of the constitutionality of speed and red light cameras in Mendenhall v. Akron (view decision). Not so fast, the appellate judges said.
"The trial court properly ruled Mendenhall not dispositive of this matter," Judge Arlene Singer wrote for the appellate panel majority. "We note that the Mendenhall court issued a caveat to its decision when the court stated, 'although there are due process questions regarding the operation of the Akron Ordinance and those similar to it, those questions are not appropriately before us at this time and will not be discussed here.'"
The appellate court further ruled that anyone penalized by a city ordinance has standing to challenge its constitutionality, whether he has paid the fine or not. It continued by pointing out state law gives the municipal court jurisdiction over any municipal violation (except parking tickets), despite Toledo's attempt to argue that "any" does not mean "all."
"The plain language of the ordinance also reveals that appellee city has attempted to divest the municipal court of some, or all, of its jurisdiction by establishing an administrative alternative without the express approval of the legislature," Singer wrote. "Such usurpation of jurisdiction violates Ohio Constitution, Article IV, Section 1, and is therefore a nullity."
The appellate panel was less convinced by Walker's second and third arguments, but his win on the first point reversed the Lucas County court's decision. The appeals court ordered Toledo to pay court costs.
A copy of the decision is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.