Only Ohio and Louisana have mayor’s courts, which can be formed by any municipality of more than 200 residents and no municipal court. In Ohio there are 295 mayor’s courts in 64 of 88 counties.
“The problems with mayor’s courts are overwhelming. Mayors have the authority to direct their municipalities’ police to issue citations, and they can use the mayor’s court to collect fines and fees for these citations to fund their municipalities,” the report said.
The ACLU of Ohio found that North Olmstead collected $1.3 million in citation revenues, Lockland took in nearly $900,000 and Bratenahl pulled in $500,000 in a single year.
The report found that mayor’s courts do not have transcripts or recordings of proceedings, only six hours of training is required of mayors who operate the courts and one out of six traffic tickets issued in Ohio in 2016 came in cities with mayor’s courts.
In 51 jurisdictions, police write tickets at four or more times the average rate of officers elsewhere in Ohio, said Sri Thakkilapati, lead author of the report. Researchers also found black people are more likely to be stopped and ticketed in inner ring suburbs with mayor’s courts.
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The ACLU of Ohio said jail, arrest and license suspension — tactics employed by mayor’s courts — are excessive penalties for minor traffic violations.
While court rulings dating back to 1927 have detailed abuses in the system, Ohio still needs sweeping changes, the report said.
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