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Ohio City Pays Thousands Over Illegal Parking Ticket
Port Clinton, Ohio beaten in court over parking ticket, forced to settle class action.

Jeffrey C. Zilba
Cities often pressure meter maids and police officers to issue a given number of tickets before their shift ends as part of their performance evaluation. These individuals respond by identifying locations where the law is unclear and motorists become confused, thus maximizing ticketing volumes. Last week, Port Clinton, Ohio expressed the deepest form of regret for creating such a circumstance, as the city was forced to pay out thousands in compensation for an illegally issued citation.

In the summer of 2011, officer officer James R. Cipiti was working the 300 block of Madison Street when he left a yellow parking ticket on the window of Jeffrey C. Zilba's car. Zilba, a lawyer, had been parked on Madison Street next to the Ottawa County Common Pleas Court building. The citation claimed Zilba had parked at a "yellow curb" though no sign in the area warned that parking was not permitted.

He was told to pay $20 within two weeks or $25 within 30 days or he would be charged with a misdemeanor. Zilba wanted to contest the citation, but the citation indicated there was no option for doing so. That, Zilba argued, was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process and the similar guarantee found in Article 1 Section 16, of the Ohio Constitution.

"By all appearances the city of Port Clinton, Ohio, intends to continue indefinitely to issue parking citations in violation of the Ohio and United States constitutions and Ohio law," Zilba wrote in his original complaint. "Hundreds of individuals will continue to be illegally cited unless injunctive relief is granted."

The city had argued Zilba had no standing to challenge the ticket because he chose to pay the $20 ticket and that there is a fully appropriate procedure for challenging a citation. US Magistrate Judge James R. Knepp II agreed with Zilba in a February ruling.

"Due process entitles people to notice and an opportunity to be heard before they are deprived of their property," Judge Knepp wrote. "A pre-addressed envelope demanding payment and telling people they willfully commit a crime by not paying does not satisfy due process. Defendant's parking tickets and enforcement scheme therefore violate the United States Constitution."

Judge Knepp granted Zilba's motion for summary judgment and denied that of the city, leaving local officials with little choice but to settle the case with a payment of $45,000 and a promise to revise its appeal procedure to be consistent with the law.

A copy of the decision is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Zilba v. Port Clinton (US District Court, Northern Ohio, 2/15/2013)

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