7/27/2009California City Spends Thousands to Defend Red Light Camera Ticket
Fullerton, California spends $14,000 to convince a judge to overturn his own red light camera decision.
Fullerton, California believes its right to due process was deprived during a red light camera trial last year, and now the city is spending thousands in an attempt to overturn the judge's ruling. On Thursday, the Orange County Superior Court's Appellate Division is scheduled to hear a motion that would, in effect, put a motorist who walked away with a court dismissal nine months ago back on trial for the exact same offense. Fullerton's complaint is that Presiding Judge Robert J. Moss decided the case in November without input from the city attorney.
"The appellate proceedings were thus a sham and not representative of justice or a proper adversarial search for truth and the rule of law, as to the issues purportedly decided on appeal," the city's brief, addressed to Judge Moss, stated. "The city of Fullerton respectfully moves this court to immediately... order that the superior court rescind its order dismissing the citation and dismissing the guilty count in this matter."
According to city records, taxpayers have thus far handed the law firm of Jones and Mayer $14,522.70 to produce this legal brief demanding that Judge Moss overturn his own decision regarding a $450 traffic ticket. Nestor Traffic Systems (NTS), the bankrupt company that until recently ran Fullerton's automated ticketing machines, is also kicking in funds to the law firm to support the case. These expenditures on new legal fees may come as a surprise to companies like Moore Electrical Contracting Inc which has waited for payment since September for the work it performed to install red light camera units. Neither the city nor Nestor compensated Moore under the agreed upon terms for the firm's services.
At issue in the court proceedings is the legality of so-called "cost neutral" red light camera contract structures between cities and photo enforcement companies. Under state law, photo enforcement contracts must be flat rate. That means any payment method, "based on the number of citations generated, or as a percentage of the revenue generated" is prohibited. Judge Moss did not believe Fullerton's contract with Nestor followed either the letter or the spirit of the law (view opinion).
"The possibility that fees could be negotiated 'down' if it is determined fees paid to NTS exceed 'net program revenues being realized,' indirectly ties fees to NTS to the amount of revenue generated from the program," Moss explained. "If insufficient revenue is generated to cover the monthly fee, the fee could be 'negotiated down.' As such, NTS has an incentive to ensure sufficient revenues are generated to cover the monthly fee."
Fullerton's city attorney argued that this ruling was void because official notice of the appellate proceedings were only provided to the district attorney and not to the city attorney. The city's expensive legal brief recycles arguments used in February by the city of Santa Ana which, in a similar case, claimed it was denied due process because only the district attorney was notified of proceedings. The plaintiff in the Santa Ana case provided evidence that the city attorney's office had absolutely no interest in his case -- until he won. The California Court of Appeals declined to overturn the appellate division's ruling.
A copy of Fullerton's law firm billing records, provided courtesy of highwayrobbery.net, is available in a 310k PDF file at the source link below.