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Red Light Camera Legal Battles Continue After All But Two North Carolina Cities Drop Programs

 

In the coming weeks, the North Carolina Supreme Court may decide whether to hear Greenville’s legal defense of its red-light camera enforcement program. This is despite the city shutting down the program in November.

In calling on the state’s highest court this month to hear Ferrington v. Greenville, city lawyers cited a separate lawsuit challenging red-light cameras in Fayetteville. However, this city also turned off its cameras in November.

Only Raleigh and Wilmington, North Carolina have active red light camera programs. The Wilmington program faces legal challenges, aided by the same law firm that challenged the Greenville and Fayetteville chambers.

Lawyers from Stam law firm in Apex filed paperwork in the North Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday. They asked the judges to reject the Greenville government’s latest application. (Attorney Paul “Skip” Stam is a board member of the John Locke Foundation, which oversees Carolina magazine.)

Greenville asked the court for permission to amend his request for a discretionary review of Ferrington’s case. The City also asked the State Supreme Court to make a “judgment” in the Fayetteville red light case, Allen v. City of Fayetteville.

The court receives court notice when it declares a fact presented as evidence to be true, without a formal evidence process.

“Allen v. City of Fayetteville does not change this court’s analysis of Greenville’s petition for discretionary review,” red-light critics said in a court filing. “Of the more than five hundred municipalities in North Carolina, only two have active red-light camera programs. … Fayetteville and Greenville closed their programs at the end of 2022. The lawsuit against Fayetteville does not affect the public interest. It also does not affect the validity of the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal.”

In March 2022, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that Greenville’s red-light camera program was unconstitutional. The appellate courts agreed that the program failed to funnel enough red light citation revenue to Pitt County schools.

Critics reminded the state Supreme Court that Greenville modeled his red-light camera program on Fayetteville. “More importantly, both Greenville and Fayetteville have terminated their red light camera programs. … Whatever impact these red light programs had on the public interest ended in November 2022.”

According to the summary, regardless of the similarities between the programs of the two cities, the court cases are different.

“Many of Plaintiffs’ claims relate specifically to how Greenville implements its red light camera program, such as how it conducts its hearings (for example, by forcibly preventing the recording of administrative hearings) or how its camera designs were approved (for example, without proper sealing). from a licensed engineer),” critics of the red-light district claimed. “These facts may be different in Greenville and Fayetteville. Fayetteville’s application of the law is irrelevant to Greenville’s application of the law.”

The state Supreme Court blocked the March 2022 Court of Appeals ruling against Greenville. However, the judges did not respond to the city’s initial April 2022 petition to hear the case. Nine months later, Greenville again requested a high court hearing.

This time, Greenville referred to the Allen case in Fayetteville.

“Defendant contends that there is further support for his contention that the issues raised in this appeal are of significant public interest,” wrote attorney Dan Hartzog, who represents Greenville as a defendant in Ferrington’s case. “[T]the ongoing litigation in Allen v. City of Fayetteville … presents identical legal issues requiring the final decision of this court.”

“[I]If the decision of the Court of Appeal is upheld, the result would be a severe curtailment of the powers that the General Assembly has given to municipalities, and this will negatively impact the capacity of red light programs such as the Red Light Camera Enforcement Program (“RLCEP”). ) to function and provide valuable resources to public school systems,” Harzog wrote. “Programs such as RLCEP exist throughout the state and there are currently legal challenges to these programs that will be directly affected by the decision of the Court of Appeals and any subsequent decision by that court.”

The legal dispute concerns Article IX, Section 7 of the NK Constitution. It states that “net proceeds” from fines, fines, and forfeits collected in North Carolina counties must go to local schools.

“The current Allen v. City of Fayetteville litigation… is a prime example of how the interpretation and application of Section IX, § 7 of the North Carolina Constitution (the “Penalty and Forfeiture Clause”) to red light programs is an active and contentious issue in our state. – and one that is ripe for the final decision of this court, ”wrote Harzog.

Sabrina Allen filed the lawsuit November 16 in Cumberland County. She disputes Fayetteville’s red-light camera program as unconstitutional. Her complaint cites a March 2022 Court of Appeals ruling against Greenville’s red light program.

Greenville’s new lawsuit has gone to the Supreme Court despite the city council’s decision last fall to end red light cameras.

On November 7, the council voted 5–1 to end the program, with plans to stop issuing punitive damages on November 15 and turn off the cameras at that time.

Pitt County Schools received about 72% of revenue from the Greenville Red Light Camera program. A unanimous bench of the Court of Appeals held in the Ferrington case that this number must exceed 90% to meet state constitutional standards.

“[W]We believe that the RLCEP funding structure violates the fines and forfeiture provisions contained in Article IX, Section 7 of our State Constitution,” Judge Jefferson Griffin wrote.

The state law offers guidance on “net income” from fines and forfeitures, Griffin explained. “[T]The General Assembly defined “net proceeds” as “the total amount of all fines, confiscations or fines levied in accordance with powers granted by the state, less only the actual costs of collection, but not more than ten percent (10%) of the amount collected”.

This means that “at a minimum, school boards must receive 90% of the total fines and fees” for the program to comply with state law and the state constitution, Griffin and his fellow appellate judges concluded.

Greenville and the Pitt County School System filed a joint application with the North Carolina Supreme Court. He dismissed arguments against the red-light camera program.

“In particular, the plaintiffs allege that the school board does not keep enough collected traffic tickets,” the report said. “So the Plaintiffs sued the School Board for not getting enough money — a claim that the School Board objects to because, ironically, the solution to this alleged violation could be to shut down the red light camera program so the School Board gets nothing. “.

“In fact, according to the plaintiffs, the school board and the city should have paid the plaintiffs (and the class they hope to represent) all the fines previously collected by the city because the school board did not receive enough fines.”

The city and school system also accused the Court of Appeal of overlooking the General Assembly’s specific authorization of the interlocal agreement. The agreement allowed for the promotion of the red-light camera program.

The joint memo accused the appellate judges of misinterpreting the state constitution. “The idea that the fines and forfeiture clause could be used to take money from the board of education directly contradicts the whole purpose of Article IX, Section 7, and the jurisprudence developed under that clause.”

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