As it readies for an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, the village of New Miami has spent more than $80,000 in a legal battle to keep its $1.8 million in speed camera revenues.
From the lawsuit’s beginning in 2013 through the end of 2015, the village has paid its lawyers $80,499, according to village solicitor Dennis Adams.
New Miami’s former speed catcher program was deemed unconstitutional in 2014, when Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Sage banned its use and granted the case class-action status, meaning thousands of other motorists who have been cited could join on and seek a legal remedy.
Since then, the case has twice gone to the 12th District Court of Appeals.
New Miami’s lawyers for the speed camera case have now filed paperwork asking the high court to overturn the Court of Appeals’ approval of class-action status.
Violet Taylor, who was shopping at the Family Dollar on Friday, said for $80,000 she’ll stand at the street with her camera and catch speeders.
“That is a lot of money, a whole lot more could be done,” she said. “And this place, it needs a lot more than that. Look at the village, they could put that money into something so maybe somebody would want to come here.”
Another shopper, Jennifer Barker said she is not surprised the village is fighting so hard.
“Considering what they have to pay back, I’ve heard they have to pay back almost $2 million,” she said. “In the big scheme of things it’s probably not (a big legal bill).”
The speed cameras were installed in 2012 and after 15 months in operation, the village collected about $1.8 million on 44,993 citations.
Adams told this news outlet earlier in the week that the village can’t just give up its fight.
“We didn’t ask to be sued. The fact of the matter is all of the Supreme Court decisions have all been on our side,” Adams said. “The reason why it’s going is we’ve been sued and we have to defend ourselves.”
Four drivers — two Butler County and two Cincinnati residents — sued New Miami over the virtually automatic $95 speeding tickets.
The village is quibbling with procedural issues, not the meat of the case, said Josh Engel, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“New Miami is trying to avoid its obligation to provide a meaningful hearing process, and to refund to motorists who were fined under its unconstitutional process, by continuing to press issues, such as home rule authority and class action standing, that have nothing to deal with the merits of this case,” Engel said.
Mayor Bob Hensley could not be reached for comment.
New Miami’s lawyer for the speed camera case, Felix Gora, said he knows it is an uphill battle to get the high court to take a case — the justices agree to hear about seven percent of the cases appealed to them — but he says the issue is important.
He told the justices in his court filing the case represents much more than just the facts in this situation.
“While the decision of the Court of Appeals is in error and should be corrected, the issues raised in this appeal are not confined to the facts of this case,” Gora and his colleagues wrote. “The orderly development of a body of law addressing automated traffic programs is of great general interest.”