Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Information On Montgomery County Class Action Suit

UPDATED 02/25/2010

As mentioned in our earlier posting, a class action suit against the speed camera programs of Montgomery County, Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Chevy Chase is scheduled to go to court on July 12th, 2010. At issue is whether the contract's contingent fee payments violate a provision of state law. However the local government’s liability is limited by a state law called the Local Government Tort Claims Act. Because of this, if you wish to receive a portion of any settlement you need to notify the local government of your intent to make a claim within 180 days of receiving the citation(s).

One of the attorney's in the case, Stephen Ring, has created a streamlined process to make this easier for you. Simply fax a copy of your speed camera citations to their office at 301-563-9639 and they will send them to the county in bundles without you needing to do anything else.
Class Action counsels are bound to respect privacy of this information and it will not be used for any purpose outside this litigation.

Alternatively, if you prefer you can send the letters yourself. StopBigBrotherMD has prepared a sample letter along with mailing information and instructions: Sample letter for individual ticket recipients. You do not need to copy the attorneys in the case, or StopBigBrotherMD, on these letters.

Also note that you will still need to either pay your citation or challenge it in court, since failing to either pay a citation or request a court hearing could result in a suspended vehicle registration or additional fees being tacked on. Sending these letters does NOT guarantee you will receive a complete refund for your citations. This only reserves your right to receive a portion of any judgment against these local governments if and when the suit succeeds.

If you pay the citation, you may wish to include a note stating that "I am paying the citation to avoid disproportionate penalties and costs, however I do not admit guilt or liability. I do not accept the wording on the citation that paying is an admission of liability to be legally binding on me." Send that either attached to your payment, or as a separate email or letter. The sample letter above includes this statement. If you have already paid the citations do not worry about it, this is an optional additional step you can take "just to be on he safe side".

Sending these notices is an excellent way to protest the speed camera system and the way it is being implemented. Montgomery County officials (including Ike Leggett) promised several times in 2008 that they would eliminate the per ticket bounties from their contract. Had they followed through on their promises they would not face this liability today. Because the Montgomery County Executive and the members of the Montgomery County Council apparently believe the county government is above the law, this lawsuit is now the only way to force them into compliance. Your sending these letters helps give that lawsuit enough ‘teeth’ to discourage other local governments from violating the law in the future.

Despite the county’s claims to the contrary, this is not merely a semantic issue of which creative definition of the word ‘operate’ they use for an unmanned system. This is a meaningful issue of the real corruption of our justice system by giving a profit motive to a company which has substantial control over many elements of the program : from deploying and maintaining cameras to processing violations and providing evidence to court hearings. Other types of contract arrangements are possible -- Montgomery County simply decided that this option is the best way to make money off the program. This is a matter of the county selling out your legal rights in order to generate more revenue.

We believe it is particularly important for out of state drivers to send the claim notification letters because making individual court challenges is completely impractical for them; this may be your only way to protest the county's speed cameras. Local residents who wanted to challenge citations but saw it as impractical should also take this opportunity for collective action instead.

For more details about this suit, contact Steve Ring of 'Ring Law Offices', Bill Askinazi of 'Askinazi Law', or 'Byrd and Byrd LLC'.

Disclaimer: StopBigBrotherMD.org provides no warranties for the information provided here or in the referenced documents. This information should not be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. This information is for your convenience only. StopBigBrotherMD.org is NOT a party to this lawsuit and receives no compensation from the parties involved. Nothing on this website should be interpreted to mean that that sending these notices is a substitute for paying the fine or requesting an individual court hearing.

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Update 8/11/2010: On June 15, 2010, less than a month before the scheduled jury trial, a judge ruled to dismiss this lawsuit on a technicality. This incorrect decision, which conflicts with an earlier circuit court judge's ruling made months prior based on exactly the same arguments and evidence, is being appealed. That process will take at least several months. Because of a limitations to the liability of local governments which require claimants to notify the potential defendant within 180 days, we recommend that ticket recipients still take the action described above
as a way to protest your ticket and to preserve your right to participate in a future settlement after the people's right to a jury trial on this matter has been restored.