Suit filed against mayors#8217; courts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 9, 2008

HANGING ROCK — A Franklin Furnace woman believes mayors’ courts —including the one in Hanging Rock — are unconstitutional.

She has filed a lawsuit in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court in hopes others will agree with her.

Karen Lahr filed her lawsuit without assistance from a lawyer Monday. She named the village, its mayor Chris Davidson, and an unidentified police officer as defendants.

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Calls were made to Davidson at the village hall. They were not returned as of press time.

In her lawsuit, Lahr stated that mayors’ courts violate the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers by unlawfully mixing executive and judicial powers. She claims that’s the case because mayors employ police officers, operate village government and oversee revenue and expenditures and also operate courts where guilt or innocence is decided and fines levied.

“Adjudicating a defendant falls under the jurisdiction of the judicial branch of government,” Lahr said in her lawsuit. “The mayor cannot hold two positions.”

She cites other previous court rulings that have also found mayor’s courts unconstitutional.

She further alleged that mayor’s courts allow mayors to try cases with police officers acting as prosecutors even though neither have a license to practice law.

She further alleged that 95 percent of the village of Hanging Rock’s income is derived from fines and other such fees imposed by the mayor’s court.

Lahr said she has been on the receiving end of

Hanging Rock justice three times, having gotten speeding tickets there. The most recent one was late last year.

She said the first two were dismissed and the third one has not yet been resolved. She wants a change of venue from the mayor’s court to Ironton Municipal Court.

“I’m fighting for what’s right,” Lahr said. “This has gone on long enough and it’s time people say this is not justice.”

Ohio is one of two states that have mayor’s courts. The other is Louisiana.