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Courts and Crime

Last days for Linndale mayor's court?
The town known as one of Ohio's biggest speed traps will lose its mayor's court this week -- if state law stands

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Linndale village hall clears out fast when court is over.
Courtesy of M.L. Schultze
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In The Region:
UPDATE: Linndale and other small mayor's courts are suing to block the law's implementation.

According to a new state law, this week marks the end for the most prolific mayor’s court in Ohio. But nothing about the pace of the court suggests it’s winding down. Nor, reports WKSU’s M.L. Schultze, does the attitude of the officials of Linndale, population 179.

SCHULTZE: State law and Linndale

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The village hall parking lot is full. So’s the one across the street. It’s not hard for out-of-towners to find the place: Arrows atop village stop signs all point the way.

The docket is called
It’s 3 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon in Linndale Mayor’s Court. The roughly 50 people on the day’s docket crowd into the courtroom, which doubles as village council chambers.

Sitting in the mayor’s chair is George Sadd. He’s not the mayor. But Ohio law only allows mayors with legal training to run their own courts. Otherwise, they have to turn it over to a magistrate.

“I’ve never seen so many unhappy looking faces. Come on guys, smile. This is traffic court; this is not felonious murder court.”

Sadd is retired from his job as a prosecutor and has been chief (and only) magistrate of Linndale Mayor’s Court for about five years.

He’s a bit touchy about Linndale’s reputation as a notorious speed trap.

“Linndale’s not a place where we issue tickets just to collect money. We issue tickets to enforce the law and to provide a measure of safety for people who come through the village of Linndale.”

Valuable real estate
The village of Linndale  stradles a 422-yard stretch of  I-71 just west of Cleveland.  It has no on-or-off ramps, but each year drivers pulled over here account for much of the town’s nearly million-dollar budget.

According to the Ohio Supreme Court, Linndale’s mayor’s court handled 4,604 cases in 2011. That’s  26 citations for every man, woman and child living in the village.

Law Director George Simon says the numbers are a symbol of good law enforcement.

“This isn’t about that we have 200 residents or 179 residents or disproportional. If you’re not speeding you would not be getting a ticket. You don’t have to speed. “

'Cash or check,' not 'protect and serve'
But not everyone buys that the village is just doing its public safety job. Among them is state Sen. Tom Patton, a Strongsville Republican who authored the bill that bans mayor’s courts in any town of fewer than 200 people.

“The side of the cars, a lot of police, will say ‘To protect and Serve.’ In Linndale, the car doors should say ‘Cash or check.’ In the 50 years or so that I’ve driven through Linndale, I’ve never seen somebody helping stranded motorists. I’ve never seen one of their guys writing an accident report. They hide in the shadows under a bridge and it’s a trap.”

Patton’s law is supposed to take effect on Friday.

But Linndale continues to book court dates beyond the effective day of the law, and it’s talking lawsuit.

Law Director Simon explains the objection.

“Linndale is a village  (with) all the rights and privileges of any other village in the state of Ohio … under the constitution of the state of Ohio. And when somebody is trying to say we’re less than a village: Why don’t we start saying you can’t vote if you’re under 5 foot tall? Or if you’re over 7 foot tall? How could you put a restriction on what we are?”

Built-in conflict
Patton responds that  lawmakers wrote other, even smaller, mayor’s courts out of existence already, and there was no legal challenge. He evokes the name of former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.

“He objected to all mayor’s courts because he said the mayor’s courts have a self interest in this because every ticket they write they fill their own coffers, and he felt that was a conflict of interest.”

But Patton insists he’s not opposed to all mayor’s courts.

“Ninety-five percent of the mayor’s courts out there I think do a wonderful job, and I think they alleviate a lot of the strain on the municipal courts.”

But not Linndale, he says.

A day in court
As with other traffic courts, most of those who get tickets in Linndale write out checks to cover the fines and court costs and mail them in. But others have to show up and face Magistrate Sadd.

“Are you going to cry?”
“I hope not. Don’t make me cry.”

“I have a tissue. … Meagan you have a suspension and no insurance showing…”

“I have insurance," she goes on to explain. 

Sadd listens, commiserates, knocks down the charges and moves on. He says he couldn’t be kinder and doesn’t understand why anyone objects to his court.

“I go over their cases; I establish a little friendship with them. I talk to them. I find out what’s their concern and what the charges are against them. Often I reduce the charges against them and give them breaks and help them out as much as I can.”

Davis Varner was stopped at about 2 a.m. – on Interstate 71 -- and showed up in court to make arrangements to pay his fines and costs. He says he appreciated Sadd’s kindness. But he also says he’s long heard about Linndale’s reputation, one  it’s not likely to shake.

“It’s a speed trap. That’s basically it. It’s small and it’s a speed trap.”

The new state law also writes five other courts out of existence, most in rural areas of Ohio.

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

Next up Rocky River on their mile and half of 90. I hear that they have a grant to fund those cops that hide in the shadows...nothing but a revenue generator.

Posted by: Jamie (Westside) on March 28, 2013 12:03PM
Do not speed in Lindale,or anywhere else.
Realize that all Law-enforcement is a business and alwats indirectly benefits their cities, towns , and politicians.
Cuyahoga Falls is one of the worst. It is a business, and not a community.
I have had eight Police cars follow me to the bus stop and wait for me to get on a bus.
They said that since I did not live in C. Falls and was not
Shopping, that I had no business being there.
I know of peopl placed into jail for three days because they would not leave. (I have documenta to back all of this up).

Posted by: Joe (Akron) on March 28, 2013 2:03AM
LINNDALE IS DISGUSTING. I take the bus and watch them speed wrecklessly through crowded intersections as they chase down unsuspecting women for, as they say running a red light or should we say a yellow light. The two close together traffic lights change extremely fast from yellow to red. They even gave tickets for not sitting at a stop sign for 3 seconds. The police are rude, greedy and offer nothing to the community. You could be getting robbed or beaten in front of them and they would not lift a finger to help you as long as they can give out tickets. They are worthless scum and should all lose their jobs. Absorb linndale into Cleveland or Brooklyn please. They SUCK BIG TIME.

Posted by: SIMMS (LAKEWOOD) on March 22, 2013 11:03AM
The Linndale Mayor's court is about as reputable and the Hazzard County Coutt run by Boss Hogg. Good Riddance!!!

Posted by: TL on March 21, 2013 3:03AM
I just learned about Linndale - got a ticket for going "29" in the 25 mph after the Cavs game - I was lost (dropped off a friend)and been out of the State for 30 years. I knew all about New Rome.

The cop was just plan nasty. Now I know why. I just called over there and apparently Parma is taking over the cases.

I will never drive there again - regardless.

Posted by: Lulu (Cleveland) on March 21, 2013 1:03AM
All I could say is magistrate sadd is devious and has no respect for anyone. Disregard his comments.

Posted by: Anonymous on March 20, 2013 10:03AM
It is time to eliminate all mayors courts in the State of Ohio.

Posted by: Anonymous on March 19, 2013 11:03AM
This has been a long time coming. I've lived in the Cleveland metropolitan area for most of my life and the Linndale speed trap has always been a sore subject. It is time for the little village of Linndale to find a legitimate revenue stream and stop feeding off the wallets of everyone around them.

Posted by: David Gehring (Medina) on March 19, 2013 10:03AM
This is a classic example of why Cleveland should have taken a lot of its subburbs to court decades ago to incorporate them into the City. There are too many "municipalities" in Cuyahoga County, and it hurts them as well as the county seat. Cleveland is collasping under the suburbs as more people flee leaving the very poor and mostly minority population behind. The same is happening in the inner ring and you can see it happening in the farther communities as well. If Cleveland had absorbed places like Linndale, East Cleveland, Lakewood, Cleveland Heights, Bratenhal etc, the City would be in much better shape and these tiny communities would not use traffic laws to extort money from people in order to stave off bankruptcy.

Posted by: Anonymous (Cleveland) on March 19, 2013 3:03AM
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