Refunds of $20 to $30 could be coming to those who paid $110 red-light camera tickets in Jefferson Parish _lowres

Photo by James Minton on June 11, 2010, on La. 19 in Zachary for story slugged redflex.chuck for use Monday June 14. CAPTION: A Redflex Traffic Systems speed

A Monroe law firm has filed a lawsuit in state district court in Jefferson Parish seeking class-action status against the city of Gretna and Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc.

The suit claims the city’s use of an automated camera system to issue traffic tickets and the hearings at which cited motorists can challenge their tickets are both illegal.

The Hudson Potts & Bernstein firm filed the suit Friday in 24th Judicial District Court on behalf of Michael Brantley Jr. and Theodore Traigle, saying the two men are among tens of thousands who have been ticketed in Gretna since the city started using the Redflex system in early 2009.

The suit raises the same basic issue that cases settled last year against Jefferson Parish and Redflex did, though those challenges didn’t fare well before a judge. The eventual settlement netted motorists who became class members between $20 and $30 on $110 tickets.

The new lawsuit asks for an injunction to stop the city and Redflex from issuing tickets and, ultimately, seeks refunds and damages for those who have been cited.

The suit says the system is illegal and unconstitutional for a number of reasons.

It claims the system violates the state constitution’s guarantee of due process because a cited driver’s liability is determined by a company with a financial interest in issuing tickets and because the citations are handled in an administrative hearing that’s outside the law.

The suit says the city is required by law to prove any allegations through a sworn affidavit from a law enforcement officer and to provide a neutral, unbiased arbiter.

“When administrative hearings were held, the only evidence presented consisted of an unsworn statement conclusively stating that a violation had occurred and video and photographs taken by the device,” the lawsuit says. “This failed to satisfy even the (city) ordinance’s own meager procedure for imposition of a monetary penalty.”

The lawsuit also contends the practice of obscuring the face of the driver in photos makes the system unconstitutional because the owner of a vehicle can be charged with a moving violation even though someone else may have been driving the car, putting the burden of proof on the accused.

“This impairs the cited owner’s ability to establish the identity of the actual driver and results in a financial benefit to the city and Reflex,” the suit states.

The lawsuit also contends the Legislature never granted Gretna the authority to adjudicate moving violations in an administrative hearing.

Gretna officials could not be reached for comment.

The suit, which contends that as many as 70,000 tickets may have been issued since the Redflex system began in Gretna, will be heard by Judge Henry Sullivan, who also presided over the lawsuits filed against the parish.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.