10/31/2013Ohio Supreme Court Green Lights Speed Camera Challenge
Ohio Supreme Court turns down request of Elmwood Place to block class action lawsuit against speed cameras.
Vehicle owners who received a speed camera ticket in Elmwood Place, Ohio will have a chance to get their money back through a courtroom challenge. That is bad news for the village, because the trial will take place before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Ruehlman, who has already made it clear he believes the automated ticketing machines in the speed trap town are a "sham" (view ruling). The state Supreme Court declined last week to intervene, despite the desperate plea of local officials.
"Upon consideration of the jurisdictional memoranda filed in this case, the court declines to accept jurisdiction of the appeal," Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor wrote.
That puts the ball back into Judge Ruehlman's court, and he decided early last week to grant certification for the class action mounted by attorney Michael K. Allen to recover the $1.75 million that Elmwood Place and its vendor, Optotraffic, collected from 20,000 vehicle owners between September 1, 2012 and March 7, 2013. Judge Ruehlman imposed an injunction shutting down the program in March.
The village and Optotraffic both argued that the individuals who paid their ticket were barred from suing over a matter that has already been through the court system. The argument was found to be premature.
"A court considering class certification cannot reach the substantive merits of the litigation," Judge Ruelhman ruled.
The court found that the case met all of the other requirements for a class, namely that a large number of people -- 20,000 -- could make identical legal claims.
"Plaintiffs allege that defendants have adopted and followed generalized policies that violated Ohio's constitution and statutes and have engaged in standardized enforcement practices that have violated constitutionally and statutorily guaranteed protections enjoyed equally by all class members," Judge Ruelhman ruled. "The court also finds... that common questions predominate over individual questions, and a class action is superior to other methods of adjudication."
The high court refused both to hear a direct appeal of the decision and a request to stay Judge Ruehlman's injunction pending a Court of Appeals review. A copy of the Supreme Court order is available in a 60k PDF file at the source link below.