6/7/2018Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Speed Camera Ruling
New Miami, Ohio loses last-ditch Supreme Court appeal to avoid paying back $3 million in illegally collected photo radar fines.
The Ohio Supreme Court majority has sided multiple times with speed cameras, but a majority of justices on Wednesday agreed that New Miami has gone too far. In a one-sentence entry, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor turned away the desperate plea of the one-square-mile speed trap town seeking to hold on to the photo radar cash it had collected. New Miami insisted that it would go bankrupt if forced to refund $3,066,523 in tickets issued under a program deemed illegal by a series of court rulings.
"Upon consideration of the jurisdictional memoranda filed in this case, the court declines to accept jurisdiction of the appeal," the chief justice wrote.
By declining the appeal, the state Court of Appeals decision (view ruling) saying the town had to pay back the fines will now take effect. The case has bounced around the courts for five years, with Butler County Judge Michael A. Oster's original findings (view case) being upheld at every stage.
Judge Oster found that New Miami's automated ticketing ordinance failed to provide accused vehicle owners with due process. Under the municipal ordinance, the town's vendor, Optotraffic at the time covered in the suit, provides hearsay evidence in court and motorists have no realistic way to prove their own innocence by, for example, establishing that they were not driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged offense. In 2016, New Miami switched its vendor to Blue Line Solutions.
New Miami insisted that sovereign immunity protected the municipality from having to pay back the illegally issued fines. Judge Oster disagreed, explaining that refunds would be "equitable relief" not "money damages" -- as immunity does protect municipalities from having to pay monetary damages in a lawsuit. In making that finding, Judge Oster merely cited the binding appellate precedent.
"The motorists in the case sub justice are seeking the specific amount of fines they were made to pay under an unconstitutional ordinance," the judge ruled. "The motorists are not seeking to impose personal liability from the village, but rather, are seeking the restoration, return or refund of the particular and specific amount of money that they were made to pay, that was wrongfully collected by the village, and that is in the village's possession."
A copy of Wednesday's one-sentence entry is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below. The article has been updated to clarify when New Miami switched to Blue Line Solutions.