In the first 200 years of the United States, it was a relatively common practice for state constitutions or statutes to provide that local mayors could exercise judicial functions, sitting as courts for minor offenses and civil matters. Most states have repealed the provisions or retained them but opted not to use them. The two notable exceptions are Louisiana and Ohio. In Ohio, efforts in the 2008/2009 legislative session to outright end the courts met with failure, however a new effort to modify the courts appears to be starting.
Under existing law, Ohio cities or towns with more than 100 people can form mayor’s courts unless expressly prohibited by law. Under SB 254 the population threshold would increase to 200 for a mayor’s court. However, the bill provides an exception for any town “located entirely on an island in Lake Erie”. According to an analysis of the bill by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the village of Put-in-Bay has a population of 138 (according to the 2010 census) and is located entirely on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. A similar House bill (HB 523) would raise the population threshold from 100 to 1,000 for a mayor’s court.
Both bills are pending in committee.