Speed-Camera Controversy Continues Long After Village's Enforcement Ends – Court News Ohio

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Image shows a traffic camera mounted on a horizontal pole alongside traffic lights

The Court considers whether hearings to contest speed-camera tickets were fair.

The Court considers whether hearings to contest speed-camera tickets were fair.

Image shows a traffic camera mounted on a horizontal pole alongside traffic lights

The Court considers whether hearings to contest speed-camera tickets were fair.

The Court considers whether hearings to contest speed-camera tickets were fair.
Tucked near the northeast corner of Hamilton, Ohio, is New Miami, a village of about 2,500 residents. Just under the sign welcoming travelers to the municipal limits is a warning “Traffic Laws Photo Enforced.”
It’s been nearly a decade since some 31,000 motorists driving 11 mph over the speed limit through New Miami’s main thoroughfare were caught on camera and given $95 tickets. But the fight over the fines isn’t over. The Supreme Court of Ohio will hear oral arguments next week to consider whether a class-action lawsuit can continue regarding the $3 million collected by the Butler County village in just 20 months of automated ticket-writing.
The lawsuit to stop the New Miami automated speed enforcement program (ASEP) was filed in 2013, and has traveled a long road to the Supreme Court.
Motorists Seek Refunds From Village
In July 2012, New Miami contracted with OptoTraffic of Maryland to install and set up the program. The automatic cameras and speed detectors were set to issue a “notice of liability” by OptoTraffic to any motorist photographed speeding.
The contract allowed OptoTraffic to keep 40% of the fines collected. During the 20 months of operation, about $1.8 million went to the village and $1.2 million to OptoTraffic. Only 113 recipients of the 31,000 notices issued contested the fines, and the net amount collected from those violations amounted to $10,728.
In 2013, ticketed motorists filed their class-action lawsuit in Butler County Common Pleas Court seeking to declare New Miami’s ASEP unconstitutional and requesting refunds of the citations paid.
The vehicle owners claimed their due process rights were violated because of the structure of the village’s administrative hearings for appeals of the citations. A group of drivers leading the lawsuit argued the hearing process was so restrictive that it was nearly impossible to contest a ticket. Most ticket recipients didn’t bother to try, they claimed, because it would be too time-consuming and costly.
Village Attempts to Block Lawsuit
The village twice appealed attempts by the class to move forward with their case, arguing the group was improperly certified, and the village was immune from this type of civil lawsuit. After the Twelfth District Court of Appeals rejected the village’s procedural claims, the trial court determined the village had violated the vehicle owners’ due process rights and was “unjustly enriched.” The trial court directed the village to repay the ticket recipients $3 million over 10 years.
The village appealed a third time. In October 2020, the Twelfth District ruled the vehicle owners failed to prove the appeals procedure violated their due process rights. The Twelfth District reversed the trial court’s ruling.
The lead plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.
Oral Argument Details
In a two-day session, the Court will hear four cases on Jan. 25. The Court will hear Barrow v. New Miami and three other appeals on Jan. 26. Oral arguments begin each day at 9 a.m. Because of the coronavirus health crisis, the Court will hold its session by videoconference. The arguments will be streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live, and archived, on The Ohio Channel.
In addition to these highlights, the Court’s Office of Public Information released preview articles today about each case, available through the case-name links.
Tuesday, Jan. 25
A former student hired an attorney on a contingency fee to sue a Cuyahoga County nanny school. The student and another woman won punitive damages from the school, which entitled their lawyers to seek attorney fees from the institution. The school appealed the case, and the student’s lawyer asked the trial court to add his fees for working on the appeal to his initial award. In Cruz v. English Nanny & Governess School, the Court will consider if fees for appellate work can be sought by a lawyer who successfully defended a punitive damages judgment.
Customers and employees of a Cleveland bar were robbed in October 2016, and a bartender was killed. One of the defendants – a 19-year-old – was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. The man argues in State v. Brunson that the judge sentenced him to life in prison because he didn’t express remorse and remained silent during the mitigation part of the trial. He also contends that he had the right to question a co-defendant about statements made while at the police station. The Cuyahoga County prosecutor states that courts are mandated by law to consider lack of remorse during sentencing and that the co-defendant’s statements were protected by attorney-client privilege.
In 2012, the Ohio Department of Taxation audited a motorsports company that sanctions stock car races to determine if it paid the proper amount of Ohio commercial activity tax. The company denied it owed any tax because it didn’t do business in Ohio. Instead, the company maintained it licensed all its trademarks along with broadcasting and merchandising rights to other companies for a flat fee. Those businesses may have conducted commercial transactions in Ohio, but it did not, the motorsports company asserts. In NASCAR Holdings v. McClain, the Court will consider if the department appropriately taxed and penalized the company for not paying the business tax for a five-year period.
A Wadsworth attorney is facing a two-year suspension in Medina County Bar Association v. Buzzelli for violating 18 rules governing the conduct of Ohio lawyers. The Board of Professional Conduct found the attorney threatened a former client who was assisting at the law office, didn’t ensure that she had ethics training for working in the legal field, and used information gathered while representing the woman against her in another personal legal matter. The attorney asks that one year of the suspension be stayed.
Wednesday, Jan. 26
A Montgomery County chiropractor’s office faced a malpractice lawsuit from a woman who claimed that during her treatment, a chiropractor ruptured her breast implant while applying pressure to her back. The doctor had moved to Florida, and the clerk of court attempted to serve the lawsuit to him at an address where he no longer lived. The trial court dismissed the case against chiropractor, and the woman intended to pursue a lawsuit only against the office that employed him. In Clawson v. Heights Chiropractic Physicians, the office argues that once a physician can no longer be held liable for malpractice, the injured patient can’t sue the office under the legal theory of respondeat superior.
In 1996, a mother leaving the Parmatown Mall was abducted, raped, and murdered. Two men were charged. One defendant, who was 17 at the time of the crimes, took a plea deal, believing his sentence would be 20 years to life, with possible parole after 14 years. He didn’t appeal his case within the standard 30-day timeline. In State v. Kidd, the man asks to file an appeal now – 24 years after his sentencing. He maintains he was sentenced under the wrong law and a delayed appeal is the only legal avenue to fix his sentence.

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