7/2/2015Louisiana Supreme Court Punts On Red Light Cameras
Louisiana Supreme Court sends back red light camera challenge so that the arguments can be better developed. Injunction remains in place.
The Louisiana Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to decide whether the administrative tribunals set up by New Orleans to collect red light camera fines violate the state constitution. The city cut a lucrative deal with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to issue tickets on the city's behalf in 2008 in return for a substantial cut of the profit. A group of motorists sued on the grounds that these administrative hearings run by the city were a sham, depriving them of their right to due process.
The civil district court for New Orleans Parish agreed that this arrangement violated the state constitution and issued an injunction prohibiting the city from proceeding with any more camera hearings. The state Court of Appeal endorsed the lower court ruling. With that approval, the lower court judge decided to make the injunction permanent, but the state Supreme Court said on Tuesday that the judge went too far.
The motorists who filed the suit argued that the permanent injunction was appropriate since there was "no genuine issue of material fact" in dispute and no trial was needed. The high court said this was procedurally incorrect.
"Although plaintiffs pray for summary judgment 'declaring the process of hearing unconstitutional and violative of the state constitution Declaration of Rights article,' plaintiffs do not attack the constitutionality of the administrative hearing procedure anywhere in their motion for summary judgment," Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll wrote for the high court. "Rather, the only argument plaintiffs raise in their motion is that they are entitled to summary judgment granting a permanent injunction because the Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's judgment granting them a preliminary injunction... As such, the constitutionality of the administrative hearing procedure is not properly before us."
The justices did not move to save the city's camera program, as they ordered the injunction to remain, but on a temporary -- not permanent -- basis. They ordered further proceedings to take place in the district court so that the constitutional arguments could be properly presented.
The court's action takes place in the context of scandal enveloping Louisiana's red light camera and speed camera programs. In addition to the ongoing federal bribery investigation into the dealings of Redflex Traffic Systems, Jefferson Parish was caught allowing Redflex lobbyists to receive a 3.2 percent of the profit from each ticket. In New Orleans, the city inspector general uncovered an arrangement that allowed individual police officers to fill their own pockets with red light camera cash by "reviewing" citations while off the clock through a limited liability company.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.