Give Kim Hoover credit for making a persuasive case against mayor’s courts, inefficient throwbacks to a bygone era of local justice. The Stow Municipal Court judge is on a campaign to get officials in four small communities to shut down their outdated court operations.
The Stow Municipal Court opened in 2009, replacing cramped, outdated quarters in Cuyahoga Falls. Soon thereafter, the Falls and Munroe Falls created mayor’s courts. When added to mayor’s courts in Macedonia, Peninsula, Boston Heights and Northfield, the patchwork became a financial drain on the municipal court, which must be available to handle trials and more difficult cases.
The optional mayor’s courts skim the easy, uncontested cases. Hoover correctly points out that they are no longer a convenience, travel times decreasing and many traffic citations now handled by mail or online. He is urging local officials to look closely at their expenses, balancing them against the fines and court costs they receive, pointing out that Hudson and Reminderville have both dropped their mayor’s courts.
Larger arguments loom. From a regional perspective, mayor’s courts generate unnecessary administrative costs, existing personnel at the Stow court able to handle an influx of routine matters. More, mayor’s courts, run by the executive branch, pose an inherent conflict of interest, one long noted by the late Thomas J. Moyer. As chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Moyer made ending mayor’s courts a top concern, fearing they were becoming cash cows. Mayor’s courts also represent an easy avenue for political hires.
Hoover already knows the strong feelings of Falls Mayor Don Robart and Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson. Among the other communities, Hoover has been rebuffed by Macedonia Mayor Don Kuchta, who argues, lamely, that his city nets about $135,000 a year, enough for a police officer and cruiser. It would be more financially responsible for Macedonia to close its court and joined other communities in a regional police department.
Tomorrow, the judge, undeterred, meets with Peninsula Mayor Doug Mayer, pressing once again to bring the Ohio court system into modern times.