6/20/2018Ohio Supreme Court Backs Legislative Curb On Speed Cams
Ohio Supreme Court shoots down lower court attempt to quickly block legislative limitations on speed cameras.
A Lucas County, Ohio judge was wrong to block the General Assembly's attempt to impose mild regulations on the use of speed cameras. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday blasted Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Dean Mandros for usurping legislative authority in an attempt to protect Toledo's speed camera program while fast-tracking the legal process.
In 2015, Judge Mandros issued an injunction blocking Senate Bill 342 before the measure could take effect (view ruling). The measure had required a police officer be somewhere in the vicinity of a photo radar device or red light camera for the fully automated tickets to be valid (view bill). Although many outlets incorrectly reported this as a "ban" on cameras, all the law did was marginally increase the cost of running a camera program.
Judge Mandros went further and found the General Assembly in contempt of his order after it enacted House Bill 64, a new law cutting funding to municipalities in an amount equal to the revenue generated from photo tickets. The Court of Appeals upheld the finding, but the high court reversed on the grounds that the lower courts failed to grasp the separation of powers doctrine. Because the Ohio Constitution gives the legislative branch the sole power of legislating, the high court found, a law can only be struck down if it is found to have violated the state or federal constitution -- not a judge's order.
"In framing the Ohio Constitution, the people of this state conferred on the General Assembly the legislative power," Justice Sharon L. Kennedy explained. "This lawmaking prerogative cannot be delegated to or encroached upon by the other branches of government... A court can no more prohibit the General Assembly from enacting a law than it could compel the legislature to enact, amend, or repeal a statute."
Judge Mandros wanted to take action before the anti-camera laws could take effect. As a result of his haste, he never ruled that the law cutting funding to speed camera towns was unconstitutional -- a process that requires a lengthy court challenge involving the state attorney general.
"Accordingly, the HB64 spending provisions are presumptively constitutional, and the trial court's equitable powers did not provide authority for it to enter the permanent injunction against enforcing those statutes," Justice Kennedy wrote.
The Ohio Supreme Court majority still favors the use of automated ticketing machines. A sharply divided court ruled last July (view ruling) that lawmakers could not have it both ways. THey could either ban cameras outright, or they could allow cities to do what they wished with cameras. Lawmakers could not impose regulations that did not serve an "overriding statewide interest."
View Wednesday's ruling in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.