General Civil Liberties on the Docket

Walker v. City of Toledo (amicus)

This case falls into the legal category of:

Status:
Closed
Case Dates:
Wednesday, 12 March, 2014 - Wednesday, 18 February, 2015
Facts:

Mr. Bradley Walker challenged the Toledo Municipal Code 313.12, which permits enforcement of red light and speeding laws through automated photo, video and electronic monitoring. A private company, RedFlex Traffic Systems, Inc., provides and maintains the camera systems. If an individual either runs a red a light or speeds through an intersection, the camera will photograph the car. A notice of civil liability will then be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. The owner then has 21 days within which to appeal to an administrative process established by the City of Toledo Police Department.

Mr. Walker received a notice of civil liability, paid off the $120 civil penalty and filed suit on behalf of himself and others similarly fined. His main argument is that Toledo Municipal Code 313.12 unlawfully strips the municipal court of its jurisdiction over these violations and delegates this authority to the Toledo Police Department. Mr. Walker also claims that 313.12 violates due process by providing insufficient guidelines and procedures for the Toledo Police Department to follow in hearing appeals of violations. In addition, Mr. Walker is seeking refunds from the City of Toledo and Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc. of the fines collected from those violations.

The trial court dismissed Mr. Walker’s claims, and he appealed to the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals. The Sixth District reversed the trial court. It agreed with Mr. Walker and held that Toledo Municipal Code 313.12 removed jurisdiction from the municipal court in violation of Ohio law. It also held that Walker had standing to seek refunds for those that had received violations and paid the fine. In addition, the Sixth District noted that there appeared to be a lack of due process because the police department lacks a set of procedures for appeals.

The City of Toledo appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Legal Theory:

Toledo Municipal Code 313.12 and similar traffic camera ordinances deprive individuals of property without due process.  Due process requires notice, a meaningful opportunity to be heard, and an impartial fact-finder.  It also diverts appeals of certain moving traffic violations from open court to an administrative hearing, for which there are no substantive guidelines.

Status:

We filed our amicus brief on March 12, 2014. On June 11, 2014, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral arguments on the case.

On December 18, 2014, the Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the decision of the lower court.  The Court held that municipal courts do not have exclusive jurisdiction over civil administrative enforcement of traffic violations.  It found that Toledo has home-rule authority under the Ohio Constitution and can impose civil liability on traffic violators through an administrative enforcement system that exists outside of a municipal court’s jurisdiction.  Finally, the Court held that these administrative proceedings must be exhausted before pursuing judicial remedies.

On December 29, 2014, Walker filed a motion for reconsideration. The City of Toledo and Redflex Traffic Systems both filed opposition to Walker’s motion for reconsideration on January 8, 2015. On February 18, 2015, the Court denied Walker’s motion for reconsideration.