It’s been a war of words on paper in the New Miami speed camera case for a long time, but the two sides are set to meet in person in October to argue before the 12th District Court of Appeals.
The speed camera case that has been dragging on since 2013 and 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,” according to the village’s most recent court filing.
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 collected $1.8 million during the 15 months the cameras were rolling.
The village contracted with Optotraffic to run the previous speed camera program, and for that service. The Maryland traffic camera business was paid $1.2 million, or 40 percent of the total fine collection amount. So the final figure the speeders want to collect is $3 million, plus nearly $400,000 in interest.
To date the village has collected $632,566 under the new program and the lawsuit has cost taxpayers $296,457 in legal fees. New Miami has to pay the legal bills out of pocket because this type of lawsuit isn’t covered under insurance.
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,” he said. “How can New Miami say that paying the money back will render them insolvent? Where did all the money go.”