The seven-year lawsuit filed over what 33,000 Ohio motorists claimed was an unconstitutional, unmanned speed camera program is nearing an end in the state’s court.
(TNS) — The New Miami speed camera case has been dragging on for seven years, but it is nearing the end at the Ohio Supreme Court.
A group of about 33,000 speeders took the tiny village to court in 2013 over what they said was an unconstitutional, unmanned speed camera program. They claimed the Automated Speed Enforcement Program (ASEP) violated their due process rights because an administrative hearing rather than court proceeding was used. The speeders demanded the village refund around $3 million collected on the $95 tickets. Accumulated interest was tallied at more than $400,000.
New Miami has maintained it has home rule authority to enforce traffic laws and keep its citizens safe from motorists who speed.
In October, 12th District Court of Appeals Judge Robert Ringland and his fellow judges said the common pleas judges who found fault with the process were wrong and that the village doesn't owe the plaintiffs $3.4 million.
"Plaintiffs' arguments concerning the use of hearsay and lack of discovery and subpoena power are unavailing," Ringland wrote. "ASEP afforded the recipient of a notice of liability with a reasonable opportunity to present a defense based on the most likely grounds."
The speeders' attorneys asked the three-judge panel to reconsider the decision as it "constituted obvious error" because it failed to take into account some other caselaw. They also wanted the full five-judge court to hear the case.
The judges denied the requests last week, saying they considered everything that was pertinent.
Josh Engel, one of the speeders' attorneys told the Journal-News they will appeal the 12th District decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.
"We believe that when the government enters into a public-private partnership with the primary goal of generating revenue, the Supreme Court should review the procedures employed to assure that citizens have a full, fair, and meaningful opportunity to contest any fines," Engel said.
The high court accepts an average of 6% of discretionary appeals filed per year, and New Miami's outside counsel, James Englert, said it is doubtful the court will accept this appeal. All the other appellate courts have already said the non-judicial hearings are constitutional.
"They have to show the court that there is some reason to take this case," Englert said. "You just have all the courts of appeals lining up and holding that this type of due process hearing satisfies due process, considering what the private interest is, you know it's $100. What the government interest is, which is to have some orderly way to maintain traffic safety."
The village has spent more than $360,000 fighting this case that has gone to the appeals courts several times. The litigation has taken three visits to the 12th District and two to the Ohio Supreme Court, where jurisdiction was denied. New Miami challenged the lower court's rulings on class action status twice and a sovereign immunity issue. Until Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Oster issued his final judgment, the village could not appeal the entire case.
New Miami appealed both the due process issue and the amount Oster said it owed speeders. The speeders filed a cross appeal in the case over the interest amount awarded and the fact Oster didn't make the village pay immediately. He instead set a 10-year payback schedule.
Bob Henley, former mayor and current village councilman, said they had no choice but keep fighting.
"It's a bunch" he said about the legal fees. "It was spend this or spend that. If we wouldn't have spent it, we would have had to pay a long time ago, once you start the process and you've got so much in, you're like okay, damned if you do, damned if you don't might as well keep going."
The speed cameras won't begin rolling again any time soon however because the village is also locked in litigation with the state over punitive new laws that have curtailed their program.
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