Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ohio Supreme Court Red Light and Speeding Camera decision is simply...embarrassing

OK, it's a confusing week on Red Light and Speeding Cameras in Ohio, as on Friday, Governor John Kasich signed in to law a somewhat confusing bill "regulating" the devices; if things go according to plan with the Courts, "regulating" them out of existence.  One day earlier, the Ohio Supreme Court fumbled another case on municipal authority -- this one addressing Red Light and Speeding Cameras.  So pay attention if you really want to know what's going on.

The bill that passed both houses and was signed into law by the Governor on Friday was authored by Senator Bill Seitz.  Seitz used language different than that used in Charter Amendments used in Ohio's cities to "ban" the devices, apparently because of conflicts with the Home Rule provision of the Ohio Constitution that gives wide latitude to municipalities to override state law.  In any event the bill is a confusing jumble that purports to ban the devices, but we imagine the Ohio Supreme Court can find a way to foul up that apparent progress.

As that bill was working its way through the Ohio legislature, several legal challenges have been percolating through Ohio's Courts, including the high-profile case from Elmwood Place in which Judge Ruehlman characterized the automated ticketing devices as a game of "three card monty," where the city always wins and motorists always lose.

Another of those cases was a challenge originating in the City of Toledo in which motorists had challenged the municipal judiciary parallel to those established by the legislature anointed solely to adjudicate red light camera violations.  That was the case decided by the Ohio Supreme Court this week.

So, the issue squarely before the Ohio Supreme Court for the past several months was simply: Can cities in Ohio establish their own court system -- their own judiciary -- to adjudicate red light and speeding camera fines.  Plaintiffs had argued that a Constitutional provision places the establishment of Courts before the Ohio general assembly, not city councils throughout the state.  This makes sense, but clear constitutional language and logic are apparently too much for the Supreme Court to digest.

In an embarrassing 4-3 decision on Thursday of this week, here, authored by supposedly conservative Justice Sharon Kennedy, the Court said "yes," City Councils in Ohio can establish parallel judiciaries to adjudicate traffic camera tickets, and now presumably to adjudicate any damn fool thing any one of hundreds of municipalities choose.  This decision is addressed in this article in TheNewspaper.Com.

Now, let's not be confused.  Friday's bill should undo the damage of Thursday's decision, making Red Light and Speeding Cameras a thing of the past in Ohio.  Should, as long as the Courts don't screw things up.

This is the same Court, of course, that gutted Ohio's public records law and achieved this ignoble report from the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law on their performance.

Republicans and conservatives were betrayed for eight years under Governor Bob Taft.  Since Senate Bill 5 and the repeal of the Ohio Estate tax (two good accomplishments), these same movement Republicans have patiently waited for real results from the Ohio legislature.  This week's legislative ban on Red Light and Speeding Cameras is a nice first step in that direction.

But the hostile wasteland of intellectual dishonesty and pro-government decisions from the Ohio Supreme Court is simply too much to ask us to take.  The Ohio GOP must work to fix this epically awful Court.  The lack of intellectual depth and principle emanating from this Court is simply breathtaking.

And it is important to note that Justice Kennedy is no friend of liberty-minded conservatives, regardless of how she may position herself on the campaign trail.

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