Drivers who paid $110 tickets issued to them through Jefferson Parish’s controversial former red-light camera program and then sued to recover their money could be getting refund checks early next year — but only for $20 to $30.
The money will come from a settlement — announced in April but still awaiting final approval from a court — that covers the parish’s obligations stemming from separate lawsuits filed by the company that administered the program as well as about 180,000 drivers who were ticketed for red-light violations.
As part of the settlement, more than $7 million of the $21 million the red-light camera program generated in fines is supposed to be directed back to ticketed drivers who sued to recover.
The attorneys representing those drivers as a group are proposing to take a third of that $7 million, leaving the balance to their clients in the form of $20 to $30 refund checks, one of the attorneys, Steven Mauterer, said Wednesday.
The other attorneys representing the plaintiffs were Wiley Beevers, Joseph McMahon III and Anthony Maska.
Judge Henry Sullivan, of the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna, gave preliminary approval to the settlement on Sept. 9, but a full endorsement won’t occur until after he listens to any objections at a Nov. 13 fairness hearing.
“Obviously ... we would want more” for drivers, Mauterer said in an interview Wednesday. “But this is the best way to resolve all pending litigation regarding the red-light (program) and get money into motorists’ pockets.”
Redflex Traffic Systems’ traffic camera program was in effect in Jefferson Parish from November 2007 until March 2010. The parish suspended the program after questions were raised about payments the Arizona company had made to local political lobbyists.
Two groups of ticketed drivers then filed class-action suits against Jefferson Parish and Redflex alleging that the traffic cameras violated citizens’ rights under the Louisiana Constitution. Redflex also sued Jefferson, claiming that the parish owed it $4.7 million in ticket revenue and another $2.6 million resulting from a continually rising delinquency fee.
The Parish Council voted in 2013 to refund as much money as possible to drivers who had paid traffic camera tickets whenever the litigation was resolved. The settlement to which Sullivan has given his preliminary blessing would allow the council to fulfill that resolution.
Postcards officially notifying motorists of the proposed settlement were mailed out Sept. 16, Mauterer said.
People preferring to pursue their own litigation must opt out before Oct. 30, and those wishing to send in written objections to Sullivan about the settlement must have them postmarked by Oct. 26.
If approved as is, the settlement would set aside $3 million of the defunct program’s revenue for Jefferson Parish; $900,000 each for the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office; $100,000 each for the 1st and 2nd Parish Courts; and $9 million for Redflex.
Drivers who paid Redflex tickets without contesting them can expect $20 refunds, Mauterer said. Those who contested tickets and still ended up paying them are in line for $30.
Mauterer said he believes Sullivan will conclude the deal on the table is adequate for everyone. If so, drivers can anticipate receiving refund checks in the mail by the second week of January, he said.
“We’re confident Judge Sullivan will ... put this matter to rest finally for the benefit of all motorists affected by the red-light program,” he said.