Justiciable Controversy - Civil Enforcement of Traffic-Signal Violations Captured By Video
Moore, Farmers, and DeBose v. City of Center Point and Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., [Ms. 1171151, May 1, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020);
Woodgett and Ruffin v. City of Midfield and American Traffic Solutions, Inc., [Ms. 1180051, May 1, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020); and
Mills and Braswell v. City of Opelika and American Traffic Solutions, Inc., [Ms. 1180268, May 1, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020).
In class actions challenging civil enforcement of traffic-control signal violations captured by video, these plurality opinions (Bolin, J.; and Bryan, Sellers, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., and Mendheim, J., concur in the result; Shaw, Wise, and Mitchell, JJ., recuse) hold that no justiciable controversy exists between plaintiffs and the municipalities and companies operating automated photographic equipment. None of the putative class representatives had timely challenged the civil enforcement of the violations in the manner set out in the pertinent local acts and ordinances.
The subject local acts and ordinances provided procedures for challenging civil enforcement of violations, such as the Center Point ordinance providing “[a] person who receives a notice of violation may contest the imposition of the fine by submitting a request for an administrative hearing of the civil violation, in writing, within 15 days of the 10th day after the date the notice of violation is mailed.” Ms. *1171151, p. 14.
The opinions explain that the failure to timely challenge the notice of violation was fatal to subject-matter jurisdiction in the trial courts:
The plaintiffs accepted liability under the Act and the ordinance by failing to challenge their liability within the time and in the manner provided for in the Act and the ordinance. See § 6(c) of the Act and § 6.3 of the ordinance quoted supra, which provide that the failure to pay a the fine or to contest liability in a timely manner is an admission of liability under the Act and the ordinance. As was the case in City of Midfield, the plaintiffs’ acceptance of liability under the Act and the ordinance settled the matter and mooted the controversy between the parties. Because there was no justiciable controversy between the parties at the time the declaratory-judgment action was filed, the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, and the trial court properly dismissed the action.
Ms. *1171151, p. 17.