New Miami: Judge doesn’t have say in speeding ticket money

Challenges to village’s traffic enforcement continue.

The village of New Miami plans to argue Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster has no jurisdiction to rule on a motion to garnish speed camera revenues for a potential $1.8 million lawsuit judgment.

The village has until the end of the week to file an official response to the garnishment motion, but attorney Felix Gora wrote in a filing that the court has no jurisdiction and the motion doesn’t follow the requirements of the “attachment” statutes.

In May, lawyers for the people who sued the village asked Oster to authorize garnishing speeding ticket proceeds the village is collecting now — $49,500 for 782 paid citations out of 2,905 valid tickets — under a new speed camera program.

The motion accuses the village of trying to “defraud creditors” by contracting with an out-of-state company, Blue Line Systems of Tennessee, to collect fines.

“An intent to defraud creditors can be inferred from the fact that, without an attachment, New Miami will likely not have the assets to satisfy the judgment,” the motion reads. “News reporting has suggested that New Miami has spent much of the funds from the operation of the ASEP (Automated Speed Enforcement Program) on upgrading village cars, giving raises to employees and paying out-of-pocket health insurance expenses for employees.”

Retired Judge Michael Sage declared New Miami's speed cameras unconstitutional in March 2014, and the case has been in and out of common pleas and appellate courts. The village has now asked the Ohio Supreme Court to review.

Josh Engel, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, surmised New Miami will argue that because the case has gone to the high court, that is where jurisdiction with the case lies. However, he said there are two things wrong with that argument.

“The judge is still allowed to do things as long as what he does doesn’t interfere with the ability of the court of appeals or Supreme Court to affirm, deny or modify the decision that is being appealed,” he said. “The original decision being appealed is only whether this goes as a class action or not. So what we’ve asked Judge Oster to do in our view doesn’t affect the decision on whether it’s a class action or not.”

Secondly, he said, at this point New Miami's case has not been accepted by the high court yet — and he doubts it will be — so that court doesn't have jurisdiction, Oster does because it was sent back from the 12th District Court of Appeals.

Earlier this year the village reinstated cameras of a hand-held variety that are manned by patrol officers. On any given day a patrol vehicle can be seen tucked between buildings on the main drag.