11/8/2013Ohio: Optotraffic Settles Lawsuit Over Confiscated Speed Cameras
Optotraffic drops lawsuit against sheriff who confiscated illegally operating speed cameras in Elmwood Place, Ohio.
Maryland-based speed camera vendor Optotraffic on Tuesday withdrew its federal lawsuit against Hamilton County, Ohio Sheriff Jim Neil. Optotraffic was furious when Sheriff Neil confiscated the firm's speed cameras after a Hamilton County Common Pleas judge declared Optotraffic and the village of Elmwood Place in contempt. After losing requests to have an appellate court intervene, Optotraffic voluntarily backed down.
Ordinarily, motorists are the ones complaining about being deprived of due process rights by speed cameras. Here, the tables were turned on Optotraffic, as the company complained that the taking of its cameras was fundamentally unfair.
"Six months after the trial court's issuance of a permanent injunction order and two months after having its equipment confiscated, Optotraffic has had every door to prospective relief in the state court system slammed in its face without any hearing on the merits," the company complained.
Sheriff Neil's lawyers insisted the company received the due process it deserved.
"The plaintiff may be frustrated by the fact that they had their initial appeals denied, but the fact that they currently have an appeal pending in both the First District and the Ohio Supreme Court demonstrates that they are getting their due process as post-deprivation hearings have been held to satisfy procedural due process requirements," Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph T. Deters wrote in a brief to the court last month.
Elmwood Place lost those appeals. Optotraffic was to issue $2 million tickets this year in the village, which means the company has been losing out on its share of $800,000 since the cameras were enjoined on March 7 by Judge Robert P. Ruehlman as a "high-tech game of three card monty," (view ruling). When Judge Ruehlman heard that the cameras had not actually been turned off, he held a hearing that found Elmwood Place in contempt, with an order to the sheriff to "confiscate and hold all equipment used in the automated speed enforcement program through the conclusion of the litigation."
The sheriff insisted the case never belonged in a federal courtroom in the first place and that Optotraffic's arguments reflected nothing more than impatience with the system. The suit, the sheriff argued, should never have been brought in the first place.
"Judge Ruehlman was the party that made the decision to have the sheriff confiscate the cameras," Deters wrote. "However that does not help Optotraffic because they did not join Judge Ruehlman or the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court as a defendant, and the common pleas court is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity."