The state doesn’t require the mayors or magistrates in the courts to have law degrees, and is hardly paying attention to them, write Conley and McKinsey, fellows in Ohio University’s Statehouse News Bureau. The state Supreme Court doesn't go after the officials when they violate the law by failing to provide information to the high court, and "The state auditor’s office, which has found repeated instances of misspending and other problems, says it doesn’t have enforcement power to take corrective action." Former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Cuyahoga Falls Republican, said he thinks mayor's courts "have no place in a modern society where you have to have complete integrity in your judicial system.”
The senior justice of the Supreme Court, Paul E. Pfeifer, is the most vocal critic of mayor's courts. “People . . . come out of there feeling like they just participated in a bad spaghetti western,” he said, “where the cabinet maker or coffin maker takes off his apron, sits on a bench with a gavel and metes out justice.” Like many critics, Pfeifer said mayor’s courts are often more about fattening a community’s bottom line than protecting its residents. Some collect far more from mayor’s courts than from all local taxes combined.
There were 318 mayor’s courts in Ohio in 2011, and 76 percent of them were in villages with fewer than 5,000 residents. Supporters, many with ties to small communities, say mayor’s courts are convenient, easy to navigate and inexpensive. “For every one that may not be up to snuff, there are a hundred that do an excellent job,” Magistrate Charles "Kip" Kelsey told the Dispatch. “The fact that Louisiana and Ohio are the only two states that have these mayor’s courts — are we then backward? Or maybe we’re forward. I like to think that maybe we’re progressive." New York and West Virginia have similar courts. (Read more)