Louisiana Supreme Court will not hear appeal in red light camera suit

Alejandro de los Rios Oct. 28, 2010, 3:18pm

The city of New Orleans must stop issuing tickets based on traffic cameras because the Louisiana Supreme Court has refused to hear the City's appeal of a lower court ruling that the cameras are illegal.

In September, Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Paulette Irons ruled that New Orleans' red-light and traffic cameras violate the city charter and placed an injunction on the city to prevent it from issuing any more tickets. The ruling was later upheld by the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

New Orleans attorney Edward Washington III filed the petition for injunction on Sept. 20. It claims that the New Orleans city charter gives the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) "the sole authority to enforce traffic regulations such as running a red light or speeding."

Currently, the city's Automated Traffic Enforcement System is run by the New Orleans Department of Public Works. Plaintiffs successfully argued that the current city charter has not been amended to give the Public Works office authority to regulate traffic violations.

According to the Times-Picayune, New Orleans was looking to generate $14 million from camera-issued tickets in 2010 and $15 million in 2011. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office said that if the ruling is upheld, it could "impact essential city services and could result in additional furloughs and closing of city facilities."

New Orleans assistant city attorney Dietrich Hebert is representing the city in this suit.

There is also a possible class action suit in Orleans Parish related to the city traffic cameras. Metairie attorney Joseph McMahon III is currently seeking class certification in a related suit against the city, which claims that the traffic cameras are unconstitutional. That suit seeks to refund all tickets issued by the red-light cameras, potentially costing the city nearly $10 million.

The Times-Picayune reported that officials in Landrieu's administration believe they will be able to pass ordinances to make the cameras legal.

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