COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Legislature “thumbed its nose” at the state Supreme Court by passing a law reducing funding for cities that operate traffic camera programs after the court previously found such programs constitutional, an attorney for the city of Toledo told the court Tuesday.
Joseph McNamara, arguing for Toledo, told justices that lawmakers were obliged to follow the Supreme Court’s earlier decisions prohibiting the anti-camera laws.
By not doing so, “in essence the General Assembly thumbed its nose at the judiciary,” he said.
“How do you build a law on another law that’s unconstitutional?” McNamara said.
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The high court has issued four rulings backing cities that use cameras to issue tickets for speeding and red-light violations.
The new debate before the court is whether a 2015 law reducing funding for cities using the cameras is constitutional. Lower courts ruled against the funding law, determining it was an end-run around original rulings upholding the use of traffic cameras.
The judge who ruled against the funding law had proper jurisdiction, and that the ruling doesn’t affect lawmakers’ overall spending power, McNamara argued.
A lawyer for the state said a new lawsuit challenging the funding bill should have been filed. Instead, lower courts improperly ruled based on previous decisions against the constitutionality of traffic camera bans, said Michael Hendershot, Ohio chief deputy solicitor.
Hendershot also questioned whether lower courts followed proper procedures in making their decisions.
“The idea that a trial court can tell the assembly not to legislate is a fairly shocking proposition,” he said.
Lower court rulings against lawmakers’ funding powers are also a violation of the separation of powers, the state has argued in court filings.
Several justices asked McNamara, representing Toledo, why the city didn’t file a separate lawsuit over the funding law.
“There’s no new lawsuit here,” said Justice Patrick DeWine. “What makes this law so special that you get to come back into court?”
McNamara said Toledo shouldn’t have to file a new lawsuit since the spending law was an attempt to subvert an earlier court decision.
A ruling isn’t expected for several weeks.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.