Appeals judge will hear Ohio traffic camera case

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A veteran northeast Ohio appellate judge will sit in when the Ohio Supreme Court decides in a lawsuit against Toledo traffic camera enforcement.

Court records show that Judge W. Scott Gwinn of the Fifth District Court of Appeals will fill in for Justice Terrence O'Donnell. O'Donnell last week removed himself from the Toledo traffic cameras case for an unspecified reason.

Gwinn was first elected to the appeals bench in 1988.

The court has set oral arguments for June 11 in a motorist's challenge of a red-light citation in Toledo. The motorist says the city's system is bypassing the judiciary and violating his constitutional right to due process.

The state's highest court likely will have a decisive say on camera enforcement, after motorists won recent lawsuits in Elmwood Place and New Miami.

RELATED:  Elmwood Place must repay $1.8 million from speed camera tickets
RELATED: New Miami ordered to shut down speed cameras

Attorney Mike Allen, who spearheaded those cases, recently sued Dayton for its use of cameras.

Legislative efforts to ban traffic cameras in Ohio have been blocked so far under heavy lobbying by camera operators and cities such as Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton and Akron, which collect millions in camera fines.

Ohio House Bill 69, which would outlaw cameras except in school zones, has been stalled in a Senate committee since September. The bill, sponsored by Dale Mallory (D, Cincinnati) and Ron Maag (R, Lebanon), passed in the House last June on a bipartisan vote, 61-32.

The 2011 Toledo case challenges the use of administrative hearing officers instead of courts to handle camera ticket cases - the same objection Hamilton County Judge Robert Ruehlman cited in the Elmwood Place case. The appeals court agreed and declared Toledo’s ordinance unconstitutional.

Ohio Sen. Kevin Bacon (R, Columbus), who favors regulating cameras instead of banning them, said he would introduce a bill that would require local law enforcement to review citations and allow Ohioans to appeal them.

The Ohio Municipal League, in a legal brief in support of Toledo, told the state's highest court the stakes are high.

"Considering the impact of this issue just on photo enforcement programs, about two dozen Ohio cities will be affected, including six of Ohio's seven largest cities, and potentially every Ohioan who drives or owns a vehicle," the league stated.

Depending on how long legal filings and arguments take, the high court could rule late this year.

"No question it's a crucial year for speed cameras in the state of Ohio," said Allen. "There are other challenges throughout the country; I think this year is going to be determinative of what happens with traffic cameras in Ohio."

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