7/3/2020Cedar Rapids, Iowa Loses $1.2 Million Speed Camera Lawsuit
Settlement agreement refunds $1.2 million illegally collected from speed camera ticket recipients in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Motorists who were mailed speed camera tickets in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will be receiving a small refund. Linn County District Judge Ian K. Thornhill last week accepted the class action lawsuit terms that the city voluntarily agreed to with motorists' attorney James C. Larew.
Larew represented radio talk show host Simon Conway in fighting for the refund of 36,452 old, unpaid citations that the city's for-profit vendor, Municipal Collections of America, collected using highly controversial methods. The city took advantage of the state "offset program" to seize -- with a 25 percent late fee -- cash from ticket recipients outside of the one-year window allowed under the statute of limitations. The offset program withholds payments, such as tax refunds, in an attempt to recover debt. The city hoped to take in $17 million under the scheme from unpaid photo tickets going back as far as March 2010. Instead, it took only $3 million.
Under the settlement, Cedar Rapids will pay back no more than $1,214,946. Each of the ten named plaintiffs in the suit will receive $250 and the rest of the 20,090 motorists who had money taken by the city beyond the statute of limitations will split $639,252 -- an average of $32 each. The attorneys, including Larew, will take home a total of $573,194 to cover the expenses of arguing the case over two years. City staff explained they feared allowing the case to go to trial given comments by the state Supreme Court in the Behm case (view ruling).
"Some of the justices expressed the view that fines could not be collected involuntarily unless the city got a court judgment," city finance director Casey Drew explained. "Based on that, the city thought it was a good idea to settle this upcoming claim."
Motorists eligible for the refund will be contacted by mail with instructions on how to receive payment. In a statement, the city denied any wrongdoing.