Butler County speed camera case: Judge orders 10-year repayment of $3.2 million

A Butler County judge has ruled New Miami can repay about 33,000 speeders approximately $3.2 million over time, and he also settled the judgment interest matter.

The case of New Miami’s speed camera — which has been playing out in courtrooms for five years — will proceed to a final judgment now that Judge Michael Oster has ruled the cash-strapped village can pay out the estimated $3.2 million judgment, plus interest, over 10 years. He also ruled a statutory three percent interest charge is appropriate.

Josh Engel, one of the speeders’ attorneys, said that means an estimated extra $90,000 per year from the initial judgment made by retired Judge Michael Sage in 2014, which declared the program trampled constitutional rights to due process. Engle told the Journal-News he is disappointed about the payback timeline.

“We are sure that many motorists are disappointed that they will have to wait up to 10 years before receiving refund of the money they have paid under a scheme that was declared unconstitutional years ago,” Engel said.

After the judge renders the final judgment, Engel said he may consider appealing the 10-year ruling to the 12th District Court of Appeals.

Oster held a couple hearings this summer over the issue of the 10-year payout and whether he would reconsider Sage’s decision based on new case law that favors the speeder catching programs.

Mike Allen, one of the attorneys for the speeders, during the August hearing argued the 10-year-rule didn’t apply and their clients have waited long enough to be made whole.

“We would respectfully submit that it would not be just to members of our class,” Allen said. “Simply put, they’ve been waiting for five years for a resolution on this matter and giving the village an additional 10 years we think would fly in the face of fairness.”

The village’s outside counsel James Englert argued that the speeders are only out $95, but the impact on the residents of New Miami would be devastating if the whole refund is due.

“If they get that over a period of time, how does that affect their lives, well marginally I would submit,” Englert said. “For the citizens of New Miami, if there is no longer a village to perform those functions, it hits a lot harder to 2,500 citizens of the village, than it does the members of the class with $95 at stake.”

Oster didn’t go into detail on his decision, he just wrote, “after balancing the interests of the village of New Miami and of the persons in whose favor the judgment was rendered, the court finds annual installments over a period of ten years to be appropriate in this case.”

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Englert said the ruling was right, but he is anxious to finally get to the heart of the case.

“The village is pleased with these rulings, which recognize that the Village has been fiscally responsible, and allowing payment of a judgment over time, as Ohio law allows, if that survives the appeal,” Englert told the Journal-News. “There is really now only the matter of awarding attorney fees to plaintiff counsel, then the village will finally be able to appeal the substantive issue of whether its administrative hearing for the speeding fine violated due process.”

He still maintains higher court rulings have already answered the due process question. But during the last hearing Oster announced that he was unswayed by recent decisions in other court jurisdictions and refused to reconsider the question of unconstitutionality. He also ruled a financial watchdog was unnecessary.

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