LEE RAND, ET AL.
CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
APPEAL FROM THE CIVIL JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT FOR THE PARISH
matter arises from a challenge to the validity of a municipal
ordinance whereby citations, which are based on traffic
camera images, may be reviewed at an administrative hearing.
The case is before us on direct appeal from a district court
judgment declaring that the administrative review process, as
it existed during 2008 through 2012, was unconstitutional.
More particularly, the district court declared the
administrative review process violated the due process and
access to court provisions of the Louisiana Constitution.
reviewing the record, we determine that this case has been
rendered moot. While the record reveals a convoluted
development of this case, what emerges from the trial record
is that this case resulted in a number of changes, both
legislative and practical, to the administrative review
process. Although this case is technically moot, the end
result is that the plaintiffs have achieved vindication of
the constitutional rights for which they advocated.
Accordingly, and for the reasons discussed herein, we vacate
the judgment of the district court and dismiss the matter
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
2007, the City of New Orleans (the "City") enacted
ordinances, codified as Sections 154-1701 through 154-1704 of
its Code of Ordinances, which created the Automated Traffic
Enforcement System ("ATES"). Pursuant to ATES,
traffic cameras located at various points in the City gather
images of vehicles when certain violations, such as speeding
or running red lights, allegedly occur. By its express terms,
ATES declares it is not a criminal law enforcement regime, as
"[t]he imposition of a civil penalty under [ATES] shall
not be considered a criminal conviction." New Orleans,
La., Code of Ordinances, § 154-1704 (2017).
Edmond Harris and Lee Rand received notices of alleged ATES
violations from the City. In their July 1, 2011 petition, the
plaintiffs claim the administrative review process violated
their constitutional rights to due process under La. Const.
art. I, § 2 and their access to courts under Article I,
§ 22. In their petition, the plaintiffs sought
injunctive relief directing the "City to terminate all
attempts at hearings until the City corrects the
a hearing, the district court granted a preliminary
injunction "enjoining, prohibiting, and
restraining" the City "from conducting any
administrative hearings authorized by the [ATES]
ordinance." The district court stayed the injunction,
however, pending review by the court of appeal. See
Rand v. City of New Orleans, 2012-0348, p. 3
(La.App. 4 Cir. 12/13/12), 125 So.3d 476, 479. The court of
appeal found no abuse of discretion by the trial court's
issuance of a preliminary injunction. The court of appeal
explained: "The record demonstrates that the hearing
officers occupy two inconsistent positions, one as the
prosecutor and one as the adjudicator, which violates the
right to due process." Id., 2012-0348 at 8, 125
So.3d at 482.
City sought this court's discretionary review of the
court of appeal's decision, which was denied. Rand v.
City of New Orleans, 13-0119 (La. 3/1/13), 108 So.3d
to capitalize on these determinations, plaintiffs filed a
motion for summary judgment and prayed for the issuance of a
permanent injunction against the administrative review
process. The district court agreed, "[d]eclaring the
process of hearing unconstitutional and violative of the
State Constitution Declaration of Rights article, " and
"[o]rdering the City to terminate all attempts at
hearings until the City corrects the process." The
district court additionally declared "that all hearings
held between February 2008 and [the date of its ruling were]
in violation of the State Constitution."
City appealed the permanent injunction. Rand v. City of
New Orleans, 14-2506 (La. 6/30/15), 173 So.3d 1148. On
that occasion, this court agreed with the City, finding that
a permanent injunction could not issue on the same evidence
plaintiffs had submitted for the preliminary injunction,
plaintiffs having supplied no further evidence. Id.,
14-2506, pp. 4-5, 173 So.3d at 1151. Accordingly, this court
reversed the permanent injunction, and "reinstate[d] the
preliminary injunction prohibiting the City from undertaking
any hearings based on this ordinance, and remand[ed] the
matter to the trial court for further proceedings."
Id., 14-2506 at 6, 173 So.3d at 1152.
remand, plaintiffs filed a "Motion to Set for Trial on
the Merits, " seeking to set the matter for a non-jury
trial on the merits. The matter proceeded to a one-day bench
trial on September 27, 2016. Four witnesses testified at the
trial: Lee Rand (one of the plaintiffs), Elman Harris
(another plaintiff), Richard Bozeman (adjudication
administrator of the traffic camera program) and Thomas Lee
(a hearing officer for the program).
trial, the plaintiffs sought to establish that they had been
denied meaningful access to a court for review of an adverse
administrative hearing decision because the next level of
review was to civil district court, where the filing fee
exceeded $400. Although Mr. Bozeman, the ATES administrator,
acknowledged that the appeal procedure to the district cost
"more than the amount of the ticket, " he also
testified that the appeals provision of the ATES ordinance
had been amended. Pursuant to Code of Ordinances, §
154-1702(h)(1), as amended, appeals from adverse hearing
decisions are no longer made to civil district court, but to
traffic court. As provided by Code of Ordinances, §
154-1702(h)(2), "[t]he traffic court may require a
reasonable fee not to exceed $50.00, from any person or
persons lodging any such appeal with the traffic court."
plaintiffs also sought to establish that an intake form,
ostensibly requiring a person desiring an administrative
review hearing to acknowledge that the person was the owner
or operator of a vehicle caught on camera, essentially
operated as an admission of plaintiffs' liability for a
citation. On both direct and cross-examination, however,
plaintiffs established that they had paid nothing for the
citations, as the citations they had received were all
dismissed by the City.
Additionally, the plaintiffs attempted to show bias in favor
of the City by the hearing officers who conduct
administrative reviews. The crux of this effort was an
attempt to show some connection between upholding citations
and the hearing officers' financial compensation. The
uncontroverted testimony, however, was that no relationship
existed between the number of citations upheld and any
hearing officer's compensation.
plaintiffs also contended that it was improper for the
hearing officers to both obtain the camera evidence from the
computer system and to then review the merits of the
citation. According to the plaintiffs, this situation was
akin to the hearing officer acting as a prosecutor on the
City's behalf. However, Mr. Bozeman testified that
hearing procedures had been changed in 2012 after the
issuance of the preliminary injunction. Mr. Bozeman described
the 2012 change in hearing procedure, "where there then
was a City Attorney who presented the City's case
relative to the photo safety citations, a prosecutor, if you
will, so to speak." Mr. Bozeman's testimony on this
point was uncontroverted.
describing the details of the district court's judgment,
it should be noted that, in our earlier opinion, this court
observed: "We note in passing that the District
Court's judgment granting the permanent injunction also
granted plaintiffs declaratory relief even though declaratory
relief was not specifically requested by the plaintiffs. On
remand, the parties may amend their petition to seek
declaratory relief, if appropriate." Rand, 14-2506 at 6
n.10, 173 So.3d at 1152 n.10. However, without an amendment
of the pleadings, ...