ANOTHER CASH GRAB COST NEW ORLEANS MILLIONS
A judge this week has ruled that New Orleans must pay approximately $28 million in refunds to thousands of people who paid fines for traffic camera tickets during the initial years of the enforcement program, according to the lead attorney in the class action lawsuit Friday (Nov. 17).
On Wednesday, Ad hoc Judge Robert Burns of the Orleans Parish Civil District Court ruled the city needs to return the money it collected on any tickets issued from Jan. 1, 2008, to Nov. 3, 2011, plaintiff’s attorney Joseph McMahon said. He estimates a total of 250,000 people deserve to be refunded for the fines.
Since 2008, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has installed 121 cameras known as “red-light cameras” to catch and penalize speeders in an attempt to improve safety conditions in city streets. These programs have received criticism from some lawmakers, who argue it is more of a “money grab” for municipalities trying to close budget gaps. Landrieu told The Associated Press in January, however, that traffic enforcement was the main factor behind the program in New Orleans.
The Department of Public Works oversaw the operations of the camera program in the beginning, until Civil District Court Judge Paulette Irons in November 2011 ruled that was a violation of the Home Rule Charter, McMahon said. After the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed her ruling, the city transferred the program to the supervision of the New Orleans Police Department.
“That first (of) almost three years of tickets were invalid,” McMahon said.
McMahon said the court on Wednesday ruled the city had to refund those invalid tickets. However, he expects the city will likely appeal the court’s decision. McMahon stressed there are probably “millions of dollars” in civil judgements against the city that are still unpaid.
“Maybe the city will try to do the right thing (after) taking money from its citizens that they shouldn’t have had to pay,” he said.