Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Red-Light Camera Cases Sent Back to Lower Courts

Challenges by the cities of Springfield and Toledo to a 2015 state law regulating the use of red-light and speed cameras must be resolved by trial courts applying the Ohio Supreme Court’s July ruling that parts of the state law are unconstitutional.

In separate one sentence entries, the Supreme Court today vacated decisions by the Second and Sixth District Courts of Appeals and remanded the challenges to Senate Bill 342 to trial courts in Clark and Lucas counties for further proceedings. The order directs the courts to consider the cases based on its July 26 opinion in Dayton v. State, where the Court found three provisions regulating the use of the cameras violated the home rule provisions of the state constitution.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Judith L. French and Patrick F. Fischer voted to remand the cases. Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge William A. Klatt, sitting for Justice Terrence O’Donnell, joined the majority opinion.

In a written dissenting opinion, Justice Pat DeWine wrote that Springfield and Toledo raised different issues than Dayton, and the Court’s earlier decision will be of little use in helping the lower courts resolve the issues because of its lack of a majority of justices that shared the same reasoning. He was joined by Justice William M. O’Neill in voting to consider arguments made in the two cases and to have the high court resolve the matters. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy dissented separately without a written opinion.

Justice Fischer wrote the lead opinion in Dayton, finding the regulations were not “general laws” that apply evenly throughout the state but instead were regulations that improperly “limit legislative power of a municipal corporation” to set police, sanitary or similar regulations. (See Restrictions to Use of Red-Light Cameras Ruled Unconstitutional.)

Majority in Dayton Fractured
Justice DeWine wrote in his dissent today that the 5-2 majority in Dayton was fractured as to the reason why portions of S.B. 342 were unconstitutional and that no position garnered four votes.

“It is difficult to see how Dayton, a case with a bare holding but without an agreed-upon rationale, could provide any valuable direction to a lower court forced to reconsider holdings it had already made about statutes Dayton never addressed,” he wrote.

Cities Object to Restrictions
In March 2015, laws adopted by the General Assembly took effect regulating local authorities’ use of automated traffic-enforcement programs. Citing the home rule amendment, Dayton, Springfield, Toledo, and other cities asked the Court to strike down some requirements in the new law, including a rule requiring a police officer to be present at the location of each traffic camera.

Both Justices Fischer and French cited in Dayton the Supreme Court’s 2002 Canton v. State opinion, where the Court developed a four-pronged test to determine whether a statute is a general law under a home-rule analysis. If a state statute is not a general law, it does not take precedence over a conflicting municipal ordinance.

In Dayton Justices DeWine and O’Neill separately questioned the validity of the Canton test, and Justice DeWine argued the Court has so inconsistently applied Canton that it does not provide any clear guidance to state and local policymakers.

Dayton Objects to Restrictions
Dayton did not challenge all of S.B. 342, but only three sections that it believed did not qualify as general laws under Article XVIII, Section 3, of the Ohio Constitutions, which grants home rule powers. Dayton challenged R.C. 4511.093(B)(1), which requires a law enforcement officer to be present; R.C. 4511.0912, which prohibits a fine to a driver caught speeding by a traffic camera unless the driver exceeded the speed limit by 6 miles per hour or more in a school or park zone, or by 10 mph in other areas; and R.C. 4511.095, which directs a municipality to perform a safety study and conduct a public information campaign prior to using a camera.

The Court struck down all three provisions earlier this year.

Springfield, Toledo Cases Held For Dayton Decision
The Court had agreed in February 2016 to consider Dayton’s appeal, after the Second District ruled against the city in August 2015. The Second District sided with the state against Springfield in February 2016. In August 2016, the Sixth District sided with Toledo in affirming a lower court’s decision that numerous provisions in S.B. 342 were unconstitutional. Rather than hear each case individually, the Supreme Court in June 2016 agreed to accept Springfield’s appeal, but stayed the case pending the outcome of Dayton. It did the same for Toledo’s case in October 2016.

Dissent Finds Cities’ Cases Differ
Justice DeWine maintained that because the legal arguments made by Springfield and Toledo differ from Dayton’s, the lower courts will be addressing issues not raised, let alone resolved, by the divided Court majority in Dayton.

He noted that Springfield challenged S.B. 342 in its entirety, and that the Supreme Court in Dayton only addressed two issues that pertain to Springfield – the requirement that a police officer be present when the traffic camera is in use, and the requirement that a public information campaign be conducted before implementing a traffic camera. The third issue in Dayton, regarding the excessive speed a driver must attain before being ticketed by a speeding camera, does not pertain to Springfield, he wrote, because Springfield uses only red-light cameras and not speed cameras.

In Toledo, the trial court struck down 10 other provisions of the bill along with the three cited in Dayton. Justice DeWine wrote that not having the Supreme Court decide Toledo’s case will delay the resolution of the legality of those other provisions.

“This court has never addressed these provisions, and Ohio municipalities wait to see whether they must comply with them. Now, they will wait longer—through another review by the trial court and another review by the appellate court, before coming back here, presumably for this court to determine whether the lower courts correctly applied our nonguidance from Dayton,” he wrote.

2016-1136 and 2016-1138, Toledo v. State, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-8955 and 2016-0461, Springfield v. State, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-8954.

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