Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman cited
authoritarian regimes such as Cuba and North Korea as expedient,
while saying the U.S. democratic system ``can be messy.''
``But it's a nice mess to have,'' Ruehlman said.
The Cincinnati-area village of Elmwood Place wants the
judge, who in March ordered a halt to its camera use, to rule
against motorists who are seeking nearly $1.8 million in refunds
of speeding fines and fees. Attorneys for the motorists say
Ruehlman should order the refunds without a trial, since he has
already compared the speed cameras to a rigged card game.
Ruehlman said he will issue his decision Jan. 23, 2014.
Attorney Judd Uhl contended for Elmwood Place that camera
enforcement can make the community safer by allowing police to
focus on violent crimes and drugs and have more presence on the
``Why not free them up to do something else?'' Uhl said. ``Don't
make them sit there in the cruisers.''
Attorneys for the motorists argued that the cameras violated
constitutional rights to due process, giving drivers
little chance to challenge the camera-generated citations. They
also said the village didn't give proper notice that the camera
enforcement was starting, resulting in thousands of speeding
citations within the first month in a village of 2,200 people.
Uhl said speeders rarely win challenges to tickets handed out by
police, and that drivers can avoid tickets by going the speed
limit. He also said camera enforcement has been increasingly
used in communities across Ohio and the country, and has been
upheld by other courts.
``This is the 21st Century,'' Uhl said.
But Mike Allen, attorney for the drivers, said there is a
growing groundswell against camera enforcement, including in
Ohio, where legislators are considering a bill for a statewide
Allen said the judge's March order, which called the camera
system a scam and a con game, was ``strong language, but
He said many of those getting the $105 tickets were people on
fixed incomes, single mothers and others whose household budgets
were hit hard. Ruehlman has said the original 2012 lawsuit filed
by Allen can be expanded to all drivers who got tickets before
he halted the camera enforcement.
Elmwood Place said the judge should wait until after its appeals
of his earlier rulings are completed, and until after the Ohio
Supreme Court rules in a pending case over camera enforcement in
Toledo. The village also said complicating an order for
Elmwood Place to pay refunds is that 40 percent of the
revenues went to a Lanham, Md.-based company, Optotraffic,
which owned and operated the cameras.
The Elmwood Place case helped spur new lawsuits against cameras
in the nearby village of New Miami and in the northern
Ohio village of Lucas, and has drawn the attention of
national opponents of camera enforcement.