Class certification sought in red light traffic camera case

Alejandro de los Rios Dec. 8, 2010, 2:26am

A New Orleans couple is seeking class certification Orleans Parish Civil District Court over traffic camera speeding tickets.

Michele Albe is suing New Orleans and American Traffic Solutions Inc. (ATS) over a speeding ticket issued to her after her vehicle was caught over the speed limit by a city traffic camera in 2008.

Michele Albe's husband, New Orleans attorney Joseph Albe, filed a petition for judicial review after the couple unsuccessfully challenged the ticket in traffic court. The petition argues that the camera does not identify who the driver of the car was and the couple has subsequently argued that either one of them could have been driving at the time.

Since the original filing, the plaintiffs have submitted four amended petitions claiming damages against the city and ATS based on the "unconstitutionality" of the city's Automated Traffic Enforcement System (ATES) ordinance.

This is the third case in Orleans Parish that is challenging the constitutionality of the city's traffic cameras and the second to seek class certification. New Orleans attorney Ed Washington III filed a petition for injunction which was granted by Orleans Parish Judge Paulette Irons in October.

Irons' ruling prohibited the city from collecting revenue from the traffic cameras because it violated city charter. Though the ruling was upheld on appeal, Irons rescinded the injunction in November after City Council voted 6-1 to amend the charter to make the cameras legal.

Metairie lawyer Joseph McMahon III also filed a class action against the city's use of red light cameras, a case which is currently working its way through Orleans Parish Judge Kern Reese' court.

Tickets for running a red light cost $145 while speeding tickets can range from $80 to $240. The Times-Picayune reported that the city has collected $9.4 million in revenues from the tickets and a proposed 2011 budget projects $18 million in revenue next year.

The Albes have argued that the city traffic camera ordinances are unconstitutional because, despite the traffic ticket being labeled a civil violation, the plaintiff was allegedly threatened with jail time. Plaintiffs successfully dismissed the charges in April, and they claim that they are "now entitled to payment of all cost from defendant City of New Orleans."

In the plaintiffs' motion for leave to file for class certification, they seek putative damages for all Orleans residents who have been ticketed by the city's traffic cameras since they were put into use in 2007.

Baton Rouge attorneys Alston Johnson III and Jessica Coco and New Orleans attorney Allen Miller are representing ATS. The City Attorney's office is representing New Orleans.

A class certification hearing originally set for Dec. 10 has been continued to Jan. 14.

Orleans Parish Judge Rosemary Ledet is overseeing this case.

Orleans Parish Case 2008-12542

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