Ward v. Village of Monroeville

RESPONDENT: Village of Monroeville
LOCATION: American Trust & Security Company

DOCKET NO.: 71-496
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: Ohio Supreme Court

CITATION: 409 US 57 (1972)
ARGUED: Oct 17, 1972
DECIDED: Nov 14, 1972

Bernard A. Berkman - for petitioner
Franklin D. Eckstein - for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Ward v. Village of Monroeville

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 17, 1972 in Ward v. Village of Monroeville

Warren E. Burger:

Your argument is next in 71496, Ward against the Village of Monroeville.

Mr. Berkman.

Bernard A. Berkman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This case raises squarely, the question of the continuing vitality of the mayor's court system and a dispensation of roadside justice in Ohio.

Specifically, the issue here is whether a mayor charged with the financial and law enforcement responsibilities for the village of which he is executive and the administrative head can serve as an impartial judge and fact finder in criminal proceedings without violating the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The facts which give rise to this issue are briefly stated.

Actually, the petitioner was convicted of a couple of traffic offenses in the mayor's court in Monroeville.

He was convicted of offenses which are violations of ordinances of that incorporated village.

Monroeville is a small, uncharted, incorporated village in North Western, Ohio and Huron County through which a main truck in auto highways state route 20 rise.

It carries a considerable amount of truck traffic and from time to time, public utilities commission state officials conduct safety checks at its village boundaries in cooperation with village constables.

And the record reveals that in some instances when these safety checks occur up to 20 arrests per day, happen.

In this particular instance, the petitioner was convicted of failure to comply with a lawful order of the police in and which it was contended that he did not stop within a reasonable period of time after having been waived down in order to participate in one of these PUC traffic checks.

And secondly, he was charged with failure to produce a driver's license upon request of a police officer in an altercation, which occurred after he did stop his truck somewhat at the road during which an episode of shooting of Mace and so on occurred.

Petitioner was tried.

He interposed the defense.

He was convicted and fined the maximum of $50 cost in each case.

The constitutional question which is here presented was preserved by affidavit to disqualify the mayor as judge, a motion to dismiss the prosecution or any alternative to certify to a proper court.

In all of these instances, the petitioner was frustrated and a number of it has occurred during the course of the trials and both trials ultimately in the Court of Appeals were consolidated so that they are here presented.

A number of rather aberrant episodes occurred during which the mayor sought to shift the burden of going forward to the accused, a period that somewhat surprised and amazed the defense council would even challenge the credibility of a uniformed officer under oath, abandoned to the police officer witness the right to determine whether he need to answer questions put to him by defense council.

And as a layman, not a lawyer relied rather substantially and heavily upon the prosecutor's legal advice.

At a hearing conducted on the affidavit to disqualify, some additional information of relevance and importance to the constitutional question here presented emerged.

It was demonstrated that from the years 1964 through 1968, the five previous years, prior to the conviction that of the total number of -- total amount of money in the village's general funds.

In each year somewhere between 36% and 51% of all of the general revenues of the village came from fines assessed in the mayor's court.

In addition, it appeared in 1959, at the time when the village was concerned that the jurisdiction of mayor's courts was to be less the alarm that the village had with respect to the fact that the lessening of jurisdiction of mayor's courts would somehow rather affect adversely its physical position is demonstrated by a Village Ordinance 59-9 in 1959 in which an expert was hired in, at least partially, in concern over the fact that the decrease in the jurisdiction of the mayor's courts would involve some increased tax responsibilities are curtailed services for the members of the village.

That ordinance is reproduced in our brief and also appears in the -- in the appendix.

As a matter of state law and as a part of the hearings, a number of other important constitutional facts were developed in the case below.

In the first place, it was established in the law of Ohio's clearance, I think, that the mayor is the chief law enforcement officer of the village with the power to hire, fire, and supervise the police chief and all the members of the -- of the police force.

He has the -- he has the power as the sheriff and is to enforce the -- the piece in the -- within its boundaries.

And in this instance, he was -- he had the power to do and actually did appoint -- the police chief who was the principal witness against the accused in this case and had, as a matter of fact, to determine the credibility of his employee.

It is true that there is some approval required of council in this instance.