Ending a drawn-out court battle over the parish’s controversial former red-light traffic cameras, the Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday agreed to a settlement that, if approved by the court, would allow drivers who were fined for red-light violations to recover a portion of the money they paid.
Council President Chris Roberts announced the settlement after he and his colleagues emerged from a closed-door session.
He said the settlement covers the parish’s obligations from two lawsuits — one filed by Redflex, the company that administered the program, and another brought by drivers who were fined for red-light violations.
Specific details about how much money each party gets will be subject to a court hearing to be held at a later date, Roberts said.
Joseph McMahon, an attorney for the drivers, added that the agreement among Redflex, Jefferson Parish and his clients was struck after a negotiation session Tuesday that lasted until after 8 p.m.
“Obviously, we hoped for more,” McMahon said. “But, in order to ensure that citizens received some portion of their money back, it was necessary to reach a compromise.”
A lawyer for Redflex didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
From November 2007 until March 2010, the Redflex traffic camera program in Jefferson Parish collected almost $20 million. The cameras were suspended after questions were raised about payments by Redflex to local political lobbyists.
Two groups of ticketed drivers then filed a class-action suit against Jefferson Parish and Redflex alleging that the traffic cameras violated citizens’ rights under the Louisiana Constitution. One of the suits demanded refunds, with interest, for all drivers who had paid the $110 citations issued by the program.
In 2012, 24th Judicial District Court Judge Henry Sullivan issued a summary judgment favoring Redflex and Jefferson, ruling that it was not appropriate for the parish to be a defendant in the plaintiffs’ complaints about how the traffic-camera program was administered and enforced. However, in February, state 5th Circuit Court of Appeal Judges Fredericka “Ricky” Wicker, Jude Gravois and Robert Chaisson reversed the decision to toss out the drivers’ suits against Redflex and the parish.
Though the appellate judges agreed there was no merit to arguments that the red-light camera system was unconstitutional, they said they could not tell precisely what the parish’s role was in creating or enforcing the rules governing the program.
The judges also questioned, among other things, whether ticketed drivers received proper notice of proceedings against them in parish court and whether the District Attorney’s Office could prosecute the tickets. Further, they said Sullivan’s ruling in favor of Redflex and the parish prevented the plaintiffs from having a chance to get a full accounting of the money the program collected.
Meanwhile, in 2012, after Jefferson Parish suspended the program, Redflex said it was owed $7.3 million — $4.7 million in ticket revenue, plus a continually rising delinquency fee that was $2.6 million at the time. Redflex then sued.
A couple of years ago, Jefferson Parish Council members voted to refund the balance of the $19.7 million that ticketed drivers paid after the lawsuit was disposed.
WWL-TV’s Paul Murphy contributed to this report.