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Ohio City Takes Speed Camera Ruling To Supreme Court
Cleveland, Ohio and its traffic camera vendor urge state Supreme Court to save their traffic camera program.

Ohio Supreme Court
Photo enforcement companies have recently had a rough time at the highest levels of the judicial system. Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court endorsed a series of appellate court rulings striking down red light camera programs as unlawful. Now Cleveland is hoping Ohio's highest court will do the opposite and reject an appellate ruling from January that declared the city's photo ticketing appeals process in violation of state law (view opinion, 120k PDF).

A three judge panel found that Cleveland's establishment of an administrative hearing officer to handle photo tickets usurped the municipal court's jurisdiction, as established under state law. In briefs submitted to the court last month, Cleveland begged the justices to take up the case, arguing that fighting a ticket in front of a city-paid employee instead of an independent judge is good for motorists.

"The sensible informality associated with quasi-judicial administrative appeals actually benefits those challenging civil notices of liability," wrote Gary S. Singletary, Cleveland's chief counsel. "The quasi-judicial administrative appeals provides an efficient and sensible forum with established and recognized due process protections to those who are captured by the automated camera system violating Ohio's traffic laws."

Sam Jodka, the motorist who won the Court of Appeals case, last week told the Supreme Court that it was an empty victory. He wants the justices to go one step further and crack down on the cities that are violating state law.

"The court openly held that Cleveland's traffic camera is unconstitutional because it illegally diminishes the jurisdiction of the Cleveland municipal court," Jodka wrote. "But after holding this, the court did absolutely nothing about it... This is bad. It makes as much sense as telling a pickpocket that he shouldn't steal, but can keep whatever he pilfers even if caught red handed. Settled constitutional law will not be obeyed if it can be broken for profit -- including corporate profit -- without consequence. Indeed, even after the court below unanimously found Cleveland's traffic-camera ordinance to be violative of the constitution of this state, Cleveland issued a press release stating that it would keep on enforcing its unconstitutional ordinance anyway."

The appellate court found Jodka did not have standing to pursue an unjust enrichment case against Cleveland because he did not avail himself of the administrative hearing, the same hearing that the court found to be unlawful.

The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to take up the Jodka case. Instead, the justices will hear oral arguments on a related case of Walker v. Toledo (view opinion) on June 11, which may resolve the main question in Jodka.

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