7/12/2018Washington Court Blocks Suit Over Sneaky School Zone Signs
Technical errors in legal challenge allows Seattle, Washington to avoid $10 million in speed camera refunds.
Motorists who received speed camera tickets in a trio of locations marked with non-compliant school zone signs are not entitled to relief. The Washington Court of Appeals on Monday rejected a challenge to the automated speed traps on procedural grounds. The decision means the city of Seattle can keep the $10 million in profit that the devices generated through thousands of $234 tickets.
American Traffic Solutions (now Verra Mobility) set up the cameras in school zones equipped with signs that King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller found to be illegal under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The federal standards are designed to ensure the signs are simple enough to read and understand from a passing vehicle. Judge Heller also found that the locations' flashing yellow school zone warning lights were hidden by poles and other obstructions, making it more likely that motorists would inadvertently violate the lowered speed limit and trigger the cameras. The city changed the signage on August 9, 2014.
Boone filed his suit in King County Superior Court, seeking refunds for all of the tickets issued in those three school zones prior to the sign change. Seattle urged the court to toss the case on technical grounds, and the lower court judge obliged. A three-judge appellate panel upheld the dismissal, saying Boone filed in the wrong venue.
"The superior court properly dismissed Boone's claim for a refund of the fine paid as part of his municipal court judgment," Court of Appeals Judge Michael S. Spearman wrote in an unpublished opinion. "Such a claim may only be brought through a motion to vacate in municipal court."
While the superior court had already ruled that Seattle had violated the rules, there was no such finding made in municipal court.
"Even where a municipal court judgment is void, the exclusive means to vacate that judgment is through a motion in municipal court," Judge Spearman wrote. "There was no dispute below that the trial court had jurisdiction over Boone's declaratory claim. The court did not require Boone to vacate the municipal court judgment before it would hear his claim for declaratory relief."
A copy of the ruling is available in a 500k PDF file at the source link below.