10/31/2014Ohio Speed Traps Continue To Thrive Under Mayors Courts
Report shows little slowdown in Ohio speed trap towns despite efforts to curtail their growth.
Motorists traveling through Ohio's speed traps often have no opportunity for their case to be heard in front of a neutral judge. In 310 small towns statewide, the mayor or someone he designates decides guilt or innocence of the accused driver, collects the fine and decides how to spend the revenue.
Ohio and Louisiana are the only states that continue to allow "mayor's courts" to hear minor cases in towns that do not have their own municipal court. A mayor with some legal training can preside over cases, otherwise he will hand the responsibility over to a lawyer of his choosing. About one out of every five traffic tickets issued in the state comes from towns with mayor's courts.
The late Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer made it his mission to crack down on mayor's courts. In 2003, the General Assembly forced these small-town courts to report their activities to the state Supreme Court, which compiles and releases the data annually. Moyer was so disturbed by what he saw that he endorsed legislation that would have outlawed mayor's courts in 2007. The bill failed, and the justice did not live to see much improvement. The number of mayor's courts shrunk just 7 percent from 333 in 2004 to 310 in 2013.
Statewide, mayor's courts handled 259,164 traffic tickets last year, with 249 traffic ticket trials being presided over by the mayor compared to 1158 for a designee. The vast majority of tickets, 149,457, were settled by the recipient paying the fine without attempting to contest the accusation. The total number of tickets processed by the mayor's courts is down 9 percent from 2004.
Some of the towns with mayor's courts issue far more tickets than the statewide average, which is 18.6 cases for every 100 population. The report lists the most active speed trap towns as as Hanging Rock with 1060 tickets per 100 population, Linndale with 629, Arlington Heights with 332, North Hampton with 302, Owensville with 236, Mount Eaton with 215, Boston Heights with 216, Bratenahl with 207, Chesapeake with 180 and Lockland with 209.
Last year the state legislature closed 8 mayor's courts by forbidding towns with a population below 200 from having their own court. A copy of the report is available in a 2.2mb PDF file at the source link below.