By on July 27, 2009

Fullerton, California believes its right to due process was deprived during a red light camera trial last year, and now the city is spending thousands in an attempt to overturn the judge’s ruling. On Thursday, the Orange County Superior Court’s Appellate Division is scheduled to hear a motion that would, in effect, put a motorist who walked away with a court dismissal nine months ago back on trial for the exact same offense. Fullerton’s complaint is that Presiding Judge Robert J. Moss decided the case in November without input from the city attorney. “The appellate proceedings were thus a sham and not representative of justice or a proper adversarial search for truth and the rule of law, as to the issues purportedly decided on appeal,” the city’s brief, addressed to Judge Moss, stated. “The city of Fullerton respectfully moves this court to immediately… order that the superior court rescind its order dismissing the citation and dismissing the guilty count in this matter.”

According to city records, taxpayers have thus far handed the law firm of Jones and Mayer $14,522.70 to produce this legal brief demanding that Judge Moss overturn his own decision regarding a $450 traffic ticket. Nestor Traffic Systems (NTS), the bankrupt company that until recently ran Fullerton’s automated ticketing machines, is also kicking in funds to the law firm to support the case.

These expenditures on new legal fees may come as a surprise to companies like Moore Electrical Contracting Inc which has waited for payment since September for the work it performed to install red light camera units. Neither the city nor Nestor compensated Moore under the agreed upon terms for the firm’s services.

At issue in the court proceedings is the legality of so-called “cost neutral” red light camera contract structures between cities and photo enforcement companies. Under state law, photo enforcement contracts must be flat rate. That means any payment method, “based on the number of citations generated, or as a percentage of the revenue generated” is prohibited. Judge Moss did not believe Fullerton’s contract with Nestor followed either the letter or the spirit of the law (view opinion).

“The possibility that fees could be negotiated ‘down’ if it is determined fees paid to NTS exceed ‘net program revenues being realized,’ indirectly ties fees to NTS to the amount of revenue generated from the program,” Moss explained. “If insufficient revenue is generated to cover the monthly fee, the fee could be ‘negotiated down.’ As such, NTS has an incentive to ensure sufficient revenues are generated to cover the monthly fee.”

Fullerton’s city attorney argued that this ruling was void because official notice of the appellate proceedings were only provided to the district attorney and not to the city attorney.

The city’s expensive legal brief recycles arguments used in February by the city of Santa Ana which, in a similar case, claimed it was denied due process because only the district attorney was notified of proceedings. The plaintiff in the Santa Ana case provided evidence that the city attorney’s office had absolutely no interest in his case — until he won. The California Court of Appeals declined to overturn the appellate division’s ruling.

A copy of Fullerton’s law firm billing records, provided courtesy of, is available in a 310k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Invoice: Law Offices of Jones and Mayer (City of Fullerton, California, 7/27/2009)

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5 Comments on “CA: Fullerton Spends $14,522.70 to Re-Try Red Light Camera Ticket...”

  • avatar

    $14,522.70 to produce this legal brief demanding that Judge Moss overturn his own decision regarding a $450 traffic ticket.

    The city must be expecting this to payback (big time) ultimately. While I would not yet call this “double jeopardy”, it does make you wonder what the city cares more about, money or safety.

    For me, there’s no doubt.

  • avatar

    We can’t lose the taxman on the corner ! How dare some Judge side with the people. Don’t you know there is a financial crisis ?

    Bottom line is Americans Don’t Like Cameras. I don’t care how they do it in Australia or some other British Empire Outpost.

    The 14k is to keep the cameras running, not for one specific ticket. Also, a Law Firm with a Goverment entity on the hook (or the Retainer) is going to bill Retail-Retail-Retail.

  • avatar

    Does a California municipality even have this kind of money to spend on a traffic case?

    I also question the motives, just as RangerM does. This same amount of money could pay a city employee’s – or better yet, a police, fire or EMS officer’s – salary and benefits for at least a couple of months.

  • avatar

    The push to privatize various public services means just one more way for graft and corruption to rule the day. Red light contracts, garbage contracts, construction contracts … these are the fodder for political payolla.

  • avatar
    montgomery burns

    Well the city is going to the mat on this one not because of one ticket but because the whole program is threatened. The judge did the right thing and called the city out on an illegal contract.

    I like the “we weren’t notified of the appeal” argument. Whaaaa! I don’t know about California law but in my neck of the woods that just doesn’t fly unless it is some egregious error.

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