The fight continues: Sides in New Miami speed camera case arguing over $533K

A new billboard warns motorist of the speed cameras set up in New Miami, Thursday, June 27, 2013. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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A new billboard warns motorist of the speed cameras set up in New Miami, Thursday, June 27, 2013. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The two sides in the New Miami speed camera case are wrangling over $533,604 in interest that approximately 33,000 speeders are owed because they were unconstitutionally ticketed by the village.

That brings the toll to the village up to $3.6 million — interest that started adding up from the time tickets were paid in 2013 and 2014 — an amount New Miami says isn’t legal. New Miami’s outside counsel James Englert said since there is no final judgment yet, no interest has started accruing.

“To us Ohio law is pretty clear that interest can only run from the date of a money judgment,” Englert said. “An order for the payment of money… Our position then is you can only have interest run from a judgment where there is money that’s been ordered to be pay and a definite amount.”

The speed camera case has been rolling around the courts for five years — it has traveled to the 12th District Court of Appeals three times and been rejected for review by the Ohio Supreme Court — since retired Judge Michael Sage found the stationary speed cameras violated drivers constitutional rights to due process in 2014.

One of the speeders’ attorneys, Josh Engel, said the village is on the hook for the interest because the speeders are to be made whole.

“New Miami seems to be suggesting that it can enact an unconstitutional scheme, collect money, and then use that money interest free for years while it pursues every litigation angle imaginable,” Engel said. “If New Miami is correct, it will create an incentive for every small town to give itself a series of interest free loans to cover increased spending by enacting unconstitutional ordinances.”

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster ruled on the 3 percent interest rate last fall and also said the village can take 10 years to repay the speeders. Englert has asked the judge for clarification on the interest issue and the speeders’ attorneys want him to reconsider the 10-year repayment plan.

Oster didn’t go into detail on his decision regarding the repayment plan, 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.”

Engel said since the judge has ruled the case “rings in equity” the state statutes that allow for repayment plans don’t apply.

“The issue raised by the village – when to calculate post-judgment interest – should not be a relevant consideration because equitable payments should be made immediately,” Engel wrote. “In this respect, the class respectfully requests that the court reconsider the October 17, 2018 entry permitting the village to pay the anticipated judgment in installments. Instead, the court should order the immediate payment of any judgment.”

Oster has confirmed the speed camera program was unconstitutional and he also said the village was on the hook for the entire amount speeders paid not just what the village received — the third party vendor that runs the program gets a cut — or about $3 million. Oster has not however entered a final judgment on the amount owed. Once he does that both sides have said they may — New Miami definitely will — appeal some of the rulings to the 12th District.

There is a hearing scheduled in March on the case.

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