Cleveland camera case put on hold in Ohio

INCINNATI (AP) — The state's highest court put a Cleveland traffic cameras case on hold Wednesday while the justices decide on their ruling in a motorist's challenge to Toledo's camera system.

In the Cleveland case, the state's 8th appellate district found that the city's automated enforcement system unconstitutionally bypassed the judiciary but that the motorist lacked legal standing to recover his speeding fine. Both sides appealed.

The Supreme Court last month listened to arguments in Columbus on an appeal by Toledo and its camera vendor of another appellate court's ruling for a driver who sued over a 2009 camera-generated ticket.

The motorist's attorneys said the camera system usurps judicial authority and violates the driver's due process rights. Toledo contended that camera systems are allowed under local self-governing powers, or home rule, provided by the Ohio Constitution, and that motorists still have the ability to take their cases to the courts.

The justices didn't set a date for their decision in the Toledo case.

In initial filings before the high court, the city of Cleveland cited a 2008 Ohio Supreme Court ruling that the city of Akron didn't overstep home rule authority with its camera system. It also said the Cleveland motorist, Sam Jodka, "knowingly admitted liability for the civil traffic violation" by paying his fine in 2007.

Jodka's attorneys countered in a filing that the 8th district "split decision" ruling allowed Cleveland to keep the motorist's money even though it was collected through an unconstitutional system.

"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," the filing stated.

Fremont attorney Andrew Mayle, who represents both Jodka and Bradley Walker, the driver in the Toledo case, said the motorists' attorneys would eventually seek class action status for their cases if the Supreme Court finds the camera systems are unconstitutional.

Most of Ohio's largest cities and hundreds of communities across the nation are using automated photo enforcement to cite speeders and red light runners. Advocates say they free up police for other crime fighting and deter traffic violations, making communities safer.

Opponents say they are used to pump up revenues for cities and camera companies, while trampling on motorists' rights.