A federal judge has dismissed class actions against more than 70 Florida municipalities by plaintiffs seeking refunds for red-light traffic violations.
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno Wednesday threw out Parker v. American Traffic Solutions, a suit against local government agencies by motorists who had been ticketed after cameras photographed them running red lights.
The litigation had a potential value of more than $200 million, according to attorneys involved in the litigation.
Moreno’s ruling follows the Florida Supreme Court’s May ruling in Jimenez v. State, a case testing the constitutionality of using third-party contractors to track traffic violations. Defense attorneys say it likely puts an end to the litigation, and leaves little room for further legal action against the use of traffic cameras.
“Knowing that Moreno is a proactive judge, [his dismissal] shouldn’t be too surprising,” said Edward Guedes, the Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman member who served as lead appellate attorney representing more than 40 of the Florida governments and agencies named as defendants.
Plaintiffs, who were represented by more than a dozen attorneys across Florida, wanted to be compensated if courts found the public agencies’ use of red-light cameras by private vendors unconstitutional.
The state Supreme Court instead ruled in favor of Florida law enforcement agencies, finding that local governments are within their rights “to contract with a private third-party vendor to review and sort information from red light cameras … before sending that information to a trained traffic enforcement officer, who determines whether probable cause exists and a citation should be issued.”
“If I had to make an educated guess, I don’t believe any of the plaintiffs will appeal the dismissal order,” Guedes said. “That’s my gut feeling, given how comprehensive the Jimenez decision was.”
The Jimenez case had charged that the city of Aventura had ceded too much of its authority in policing red-light traffic infractions to a private company that specialized in the matter. The Supreme Court ultimately affirmed the decision by the Third District Court of Appeal, which had held that private businesses can oversee images of traffic violations as long as city officials were the ones ultimately issuing citations or fines.
Guedes’ opposing counsel, Stephen F. Rosenthal, said the plaintiffs had been gearing to move for dismissal, just as Moreno ruled in the municipalities’ favor.
“Judge Moreno’s order was the natural consequence of the Florida Supreme Court’s recent ruling, which foreclosed our challenge to the way red-light-camera enforcement has been done,” said Rosenthal, a partner at Podhurst Orseck in Miami. “Judge Moreno is highly efficient.”