2/16/2016Ohio Appeals Court Tosses Speed Camera Ticket
Ohio Court of Appeals slams Cleveland law department over frivolous arguments in defense of a speed camera ticket.
Fighting city hall is notoriously difficult because municipalities can throw nearly limitless taxpayer resources into the defense of a mere traffic ticket. So it was in Cleveland, Ohio as the city's lawyers turned to every procedural trick to extract $100 from Fordham E. Huffman, a motorist cited by a speed camera. The city took the controversy all the way to the state's second highest court, which decided last Thursday to reject the desperate attempt to save the citation.
On April 27, 2014, a mobile speed camera owned and operated by Xerox photographed Huffman's car allegedly traveling above the 35 MPH speed limit on Rocky River Drive. Huffman disputed the claim in a hearing before the Cleveland Parking Violations Bureau. The hearing examiner, a city employee, declared Huffman guilty.
Huffman, an experienced attorney, refused to be pushed around. He appealed to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas arguing that Cleveland did not follow its own city ordinance and post warning signs thirty days before the camera was activated. Cleveland's lawyers sought to have the suit thrown out because Huffman sued the "City of Cleveland, Parking Violations Bureau" instead of the "City of Cleveland." The lower court judge rejected that argument and overturned Huffman's ticket.
Cleveland would not let the matter end there, bringing the case to the Ohio Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel considered the purely procedural arguments and found the city was simply wrong as a matter of law. Many of its "frivolous" arguments were easily dismissed.
"Although the city in its appellant's brief claims the address of the Parking Violations Bureau is not 1200 Ontario Street, the record reflects a correspondence dated April 27, 2014, from the Parking Violations Bureau to Huffman in which the Bureau listed its address as 1200 Ontario Street," Judge Tim McCormack wrote for the unanimous panel. "Furthermore, the city on appeal does not allege that the Parking Violations Bureau had not received Huffman's notice of appeal timely."
The appellate judges cited the court's Stalter v. Cleveland decision from 2008 which specifically ruled that photo ticket appeals were to be sent to either the Cleveland Parking Violations Bureau, or the clerk of the municipal court.
"While it is correct that the Parking Violations Bureau is not a separate legal entity with a capacity to be sued, Huffman's notice of appeal designates the appellee as 'City of Cleveland, Parking Violations Bureau,' not 'City of Cleveland Parking Violations Bureau,'" Judge McCormack wrote. "The comma is significant. The addition of 'Parking Violations Bureau' after the comma does not alter the fact that the entity being named as appellee is the 'City of Cleveland.'"
The court ordered Cleveland to pay Huffman's legal costs. A copy of the decision is available in a 80k PDF file at the source link below.