Elmwood Place asks Ohio Supreme Court to disqualify Judge Robert Ruehlman from speed-camera case

CINCINNATI - The Village of Elmwood Place has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to disqualify a Hamilton County judge from acting any further on its use of controversial speed cameras.

In a scathing ruling issued in March, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman found that the village’s law violated the due process rights of drivers and  issued a permanent injunction, which prohibited the further use of speed cameras in Elmwood Place.

Elmwood Place filed an affidavit of disqualification on Friday asking the state's highest court to bar Ruehlman from any further proceedings in the case, arguing that his  “words and actions create an overwhelming appearance of bias and prejudice toward Elmwood Place and [Police] Chief [William] Peskin and convey the impression that the judge has developed a hostile feeling or spirit of ill will and that the judge has reached a fixed anticipatory judgment that will prevent him from hearing the balance of the case with an open state of mind,” according to the affadivit.

The injunction, the village alleged, has created a “material safety concern” and the village does not have the officers to patrol the areas previously monitored by the speed cameras, 

The affidavit also states Elmwood Place and Peskin “harbor serious doubts about the judge’s impartiality.”

Ruehlman’s blistering ruling – in which he called the ordinance “a scam motorists can’t win” and a “game of 3 card Monty” - required Elmwood Place to immediately cease the use of cameras and it prohibits their further use.

Cameras were located at six locations in Elmwood Place. They ran 24 hours per day. There was a five-mph threshold until the cameras snapped a photo of alleged violators. Once a citation was issued, the ruling said, their was virtually no way drivers could defend themselves in court.

The ruling also noted that Optotraffic, the company that operated the cameras,  only calibrated the cameras once a year. Each civil citation was “verified by a law enforcement officer,” according to Elmwood Police.

Ruehlman pointed to the financial stake Optotraffic had in their use. Citations from the cameras generated about $1.5 million, of which $900,000 went to the village and $500,000 was paid to Optotraffic.

Proponents contended the red light and speed cameras helped slow traffic speed, prevented accidents, snagged violators and allowed municipalities to keep an eye on the roads at a reduced financial cost. Critics suggested the use of cameras was a technique used by cash-strapped municipalities to generate revenue.

In Ohio, there are at least 16 Ohio municipalities that currently use some kind of red light or speed camera.

There is no state law regulating or permitting the use of cameras.

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