City files motion to continue certification hearing in red light camera case

Alejandro de los Rios Jun. 14, 2010, 9:16am

The city of New Orleans filed a motion to continue a class certification hearing set for June 18 in Orleans Parish Civil District Court in a case over the city's use of red light cameras.

Metairie lawyer Joseph McMahon III filed the class action claimihg the cameras that catch motorists breaking the law are against the law. Having been ticketed himself, McMahon's suit seeks to return all fines "illegally" collected to the class of plaintiffs.

McMahon has filed similar lawsuits in Jefferson Parish and in Lafayette, La.

The city filed the motion to continue through assistant city attorney Detrich Hebert.

The motion cites Louisiana State Civil Procedure Article 592 (3)(a) which states that a motion to certify a class action cannot be held before all adverse parties have been served with the pleading or have made a court appearances and the parties have had reasonable time to obtain discovery on class certification issues.

The motion states that "hearing on a class certification is improper because the city has not made an appearance before the court in the present matter." It also states that "the city has not had adequate time to conduct discovery because there are numerous other traffic camera violation cases that are consuming counsel's time."

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

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 purported crime provided by the red light camera.

New Orleans adopted the red light camera system in April 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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