Appeals court refuses to reconsider New Miami speed camera case

The 12th District Court of Appeals has denied the village of New Miami’s request to reconsider its decision on the speed camera case, based on a high court ruling in a Toledo case.

Last March, now retired Judge Michael Sage wrote a 15-page decision on the speed camera case, ruling the village ordinance — that produced $1.8 million in ticket revenue — violated Ohio Constitution due process rights. He also ordered the village to stop using the speed cameras and dismissed the former police chief from the lawsuit. The judge agreed to hold off on returning fine money until after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Walker v. Toledo case, which the high court did in December.

Before he left the bench, Sage said the higher courts still need to rule on his finding that New Miami violated the drivers’ right to due process, before fines can be refunded.

Two Butler County and two Cincinnati residents sued New Miami over the virtually automatic $95 speeding tickets, and Sage approved establishing the plaintiffs’ case as a class action. The case was appealed to the 12th District only on the class-action order. That court sent it back saying Sage had to more clearly state his reasons for approving the class.

The village filed a motion in December saying since none of the plaintiffs in the local case went through the administrative hearing process, they don’t have standing — based on the Supreme Court ruling — to challenge the cameras. The high court ruled that the administrative hearings many jurisdictions use as opposed to municipal court hearings are fine, but also said the administrative hearings must be exhausted before judicial remedies can be pursued.

New Miami’s attorney Wilson Weisenfelder also asked the 12th District to reconsider its ruling and to take notice of the Walker case.

The 12th District judges said they must only reconsider a case if someone points out an obvious error in their decision or raises an issue that was not considered but perhaps should have been.

“While this court did not address the Walker case in its decision, such was unnecessary because the application of Walker does not change the ability of appellees to bring a facial constitutional challenge without first raising the issue in an administrative appeal…,” the ruling reads. “Walker does not affect this court’s holdings that appellees have standing.”

The high court has also refused to reconsider its decision in Walker, so that holding is now final. Sage sent a 23-page explanation for his decision on the class issue up to the appeals court on his last day on the bench, so his replacement Judge Michael Oster has a couple more motions on the case to decide.

Weisenfelder said Oster could even undo what Sage did, since there is still his motion for relief from judgment based on the high court ruling.

“The new judge could undo what Judge Sage did by granting the motion for relief from judgment,” Weisenfelder said. “But there is another wrinkle in this that doesn’t necessarily affect these plaintiffs. The legislature passed a statute in December addressing most of these traffic camera laws. It becomes effective March 23.”

Weisenfelder said the law basically creates a “blueprint” for using the speed catchers, making it a bit more difficult for jurisdictions to use them but also clarifying current law.

Josh Engel, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, said the 12th District refusing to apply Walker to the current appeal was a good decision and means the case moves forward.

“The court of appeals agreed that people can seek refunds by suggesting that the entire scheme is unconstitutional,” he said. “The Walker decision doesn’t change over 50 years of law on that issue.”