Red light camera class certification hearing continued

Alejandro de los Rios Jun. 21, 2010, 2:27am

Orleans Parish District Court Judge Kern Reese on Friday granted the city of New Orleans' motion to continue a class certification hearing in a red light camera case until Sept. 24.

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

The motion cites Louisiana State Civil Procedure Article 592 (3)(a) and states that the "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."

Metairie lawyer Joseph McMahon III filed the class action claiming the cameras that catch motorists breaking the law are illegal. Reese threw out a red light camera ticket issued against McMahon in 2008.

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

Red light camera revenue has been used for various public works projects in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. 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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