The Columbus Dispatch looks into Ohio's mayor's courts, which for years have drawn criticism as small-town kangaroo courts. Despite the criticism, neither state court authorities nor politicians have been willing or able to make changes in the courts, which some say fail to properly account for hundreds of thousands of dollars and use traffic fines to prop up village budgets.
Former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin calls the courts “backwoods justice.” There were 318 mayor's courts in Ohio in 2011, and 76 percent of them were in villages with fewer than 5,000 residents. There were 273,169 new mayor's court cases in 2011, a 6 percent drop from 2010 and the second year the numbers declined, according to the Ohio Supreme Court. Supporters, many with ties to small communities, say mayor's courts are convenient and easy to navigate. They also are the financial vehicles that keep many small villages going.