Metairie lawyer files class action over New Orleans' red light cameras

Alejandro de los Rios Apr. 6, 2010, 10:19am

Metairie lawyer Joseph McMahon III filed a class action suit against New Orleans over the city's use of red light cameras that catch motorists breaking the law.

The suit filed March 4 in Orleans Parish claims that all the tickets issued since the cameras began operating in April 2008 were done so unconstitutionally.

It seeks to return all fines "illegally collected" to the class of plaintiffs.

Having been ticketed himself, McMahon has filed lawsuits over red-light cameras in Jefferson Parish and in Lafayette.

Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Reese Kern threw out a red light camera ticket issued against McMahon in 2008.

In the class action suit, McMahon cites Judge Kern's ruling which found that his conviction "was based entirely upon improperly introduced hearsay evidence consisting of photographs and video of McMahon's vehicle that were not properly authenticated under Louisiana evidence law, and an improper affidavit."

In both New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, red light cameras have generated millions of dollars for various government projects. The Times-Picayune reported that New Orleans has used most of the nearly $10 million generated from red light cameras towards the rebuilding of roads throughout the city while Jefferson Parish has held nearly $15 million in escrow until all appeals are exhausted.

McMahon's other cases against red light cameras in Louisiana are still ongoing.

But in May 2009, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance threw out a similar case, stating that McMahon and his lawyer, Anthony Maska, failed to show that Jefferson Parish's system is unconstitutional. Maska and McMahon have taken their case back to state court.

In Lafayette, a state judge threw out the bulk of McMahon's lawsuit against the city's traffic cameras that sought to prove the program is unlawful for turning traffic tickets into civil violations. McMahon and Maska are now attempting the same argument they've made in New Orleans, alleging that in the Lafayette system, someone must see the traffic violation in order to validate the image of the crime provided by the red light camera.

New Orleans adopted the red light camera system in April of 2008 after a private firm, American Traffic Solutions Inc., won an open-bidding contract to install and run the cameras and issue citations and fines to motorists.

Orleans Parish Case 2010-02196

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