10/28/2010California, Louisiana Supreme Courts Thumb Down Traffic Cameras
Supreme courts in California and Louisiana turn down municipal requests to rescue photo ticketing programs.
The highest courts in California and Louisiana yesterday denied the requests of municipal officials desperate to save their photo enforcement programs. In New Orleans, the red light camera and speed camera program must shut down after the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously rejected the city's request to overturn the decision of Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Paulette R. Irons who found earlier this month that the program violated the city's own charter.
"We are obviously disappointed in supreme court's decision because these cameras have proven to be an important deterrent to unlawful traffic practices," a city statement explained.
As a matter of law, the high court found no reason to overturn the Irons decision, just as the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had done less than two weeks ago. As victorious Attorney Edward R. Washington III considers launching a class action suit to force refunds, the city is digging in its heels, refusing to pay back citations paid under the illegal program.
"It is our position that camera violations issued through yesterday will still be valid," the city insisted. "You must continue to pay all tickets issued until this point."
The California Supreme Court likewise rejected a request by the cities of Santa Ana and West Hollywood to depublish an appellate decision that found cities had to provide warning notices for thirty days at each and every red light camera intersection before issuing actual tickets (view ruling). Almost no cities do so, raising the possibility of a class action challenge to refund tickets illegally issued.
The high court rejected municipal arguments and declared the case closed, leaving it to stand with precedential value in Orange County and persuasive value throughout the state. The decision comes as justices prepare to rule on a larger case that turns on the question of whether contracts for red light camera services paid on a per-ticket basis are inherently void. That case had been pending the resolution of a case, County of Santa Clara v. Atlantic Richfield, which the court decided in July.