Ohio Supreme Court: City of Toledo can’t hold hearings on red-light camera violations

Pictured is the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center where the Ohio Supreme Court meets. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons..

The city of Toledo lacks jurisdiction to hold hearings on violations cited via red-light camera, according to a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday.

All seven Supreme Court Justices agreed with the argument of a Woodville woman who said holding “administrative” proceedings in Toledo on her potentially $120 speeding fine would be overriding state law because the law assigned that role to municipal courts.

State law states municipal courts are the venue to enforce ordinances “including exclusive jurisdiction over every civil action concerning a violation of a state traffic law or a municipal traffic ordinance,” with the exception of certain parking violations.

The language of the law changed as part of the transportation budget passed in April of 2019. Previously, the law had given municipal courts the right to rule on “the violation of any ordinance of any municipal corporation within its territory.” 

The state Supreme Court said that language did not give exclusive privilege to the municipal courts for traffic violations, but now that the law has changed, the process is made plain.

“The current version of (the state law) clearly and unambiguously reserves for municipal courts exclusive authority to adjudicate every civil traffic-law violation,” Justice Judith L. French wrote in the court’s ruling. 

The city had argued not only that the changes made in 2019 were unconstitutional, but also that the civil administrative hearings were allowed under their home-rule authority, a concept that allows municipalities to pass laws to individually govern themselves, as long as it doesn’t contradict state and federal law.

In another argument, the city argued that the word “exclusive” in the law only applied to other courts, and not to the administrative process they were using.

“Toledo’s preferred construction of the statute requires us to add words to the text, which we are not permitted to do,” French wrote in the opinion.