New Miami: Paying speeders would put village in ‘financial ruin’

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New Miami: Paying speeders would put village in ‘financial ruin’

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A billboard warns motorists of the speed cameras set up in New Miami. GREG LYNCH/2013

It’s been a war of words on paper in the New Miami speed camera case for a long time, but the two sides will be meeting in person in October to argue before the 12th District Court of Appeals.

The speed case that has been dragging on since 2013 is about to be decided by three judges on the appellate court.

If New Miami has its way, $3 million-plus will not go into the hands of drivers who paid fines under a speed camera system that has been found unconstitutional.

The 12th District has scheduled an oral argument for Oct. 16 on the sole issue of sovereign immunity, or the premise that governments can’t be sued.

“Should the plaintiffs prevail, the village would suffer financial ruin, exactly what the sovereign immunity statute intended to preclude,” the most recent court filing says.

The village’s former speed camera system — and its new one as well — was managed by a third party vendor that kept some of the revenue from the speeding ticket fines collected.

The village has collected $524,478 under the new program.

As of the end of April, the village had been billed more than $260,000 by its attorneys and had paid $253,537.

Josh Engel, one of the speeders’ attorneys, says New Miami’s argument makes no sense.

“The constitution is intended to protect people from the government, yet New Miami would render the constitution meaningless by saying that municipalities can ignore the constitution and get the benefits of passing unconstitutional laws,” Engel said. “How can New Miami say that paying the money back will render them insolvent? Where did all the money go.”

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