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Not_Guilty

Can I sue county for not following law?

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Not_Guilty said...

Now the next step would be to appeal to small claims court

No, you file an appeal in superior court.

Not_Guilty said...

How can I appeal the decision of a hearing when I believe there was no hearing?

There was a decision. That is what you appealing.

Not_Guilty said...

The real question now is: Should I move on with the small claims appeal or can I countersue the county in a whole new case for not following proper procedure?

It's not a small claims appeal. It's an appeal to the superior court. If you filed it in small claims, you're never going to hear anything because you didn't file it in the right place. NO, you can't sue the county. First, parking enforcement is handled by the city cops/traffic officers, not the county. That means it's also likely you demanded information from the wrong agency to begin with. Second, you challenge the procedures in the context of what happened to the higher court--the superior court.

Not_Guilty said...

I heard the term "mandate of writ" in this context. Is that an avenue I can pursue and how would it work?

It's called a writ of mandate and it isn't available in your type of factual situation at this point in time.

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I received a $260 ticket from Alameda County (CA) for a 10-second stop at a red-curb bus stop. It's one of these cases:

http://old.kennwilson.com/2008/03/ac-transit-parking-trap

Had the ticket been 60-70 bucks I'd have paid and moved on, but having stepped into a $260 trap irked me tremendously. Esp since there was a construction zone intruding into the road (have pictures) and CVC 22500(i), which I have been cited for violating, states: "... except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic." So I got the administrative review - of course ticket upheld. Next step: administrative hearing, I opted for in-person.

I like to be prepared for these kind of things so I reviewed the law. CVC 40215©(3) states:

"The administrative hearing shall be conducted in accordance with written procedures established by the issuing agency and approved by the governing body or chief executive officer of the issuing agency."

Because this is all new to me and I wanted to know what to expect, I requested a copy of those procedures beforehand by certified mail. No response. At the beginning of the hearing, I asked the officer for those procedures. He grew irritated, accused me of "weaseling" and finally exclaimed in front of another witness:

"There are none. I'm telling you here, there are none!

I did not expect this and it is my layman's opinion that this invalidated the hearing. It was not an Administrative Hearing because it didn't meet the requirements of the law. And of course the ticket was upheld again.

Now the next step would be to appeal to small claims court and here is where my questions begin. How can I appeal the decision of a hearing when I believe there was no hearing? Would I, by filing for this appeal, acknowledge the conversation I had with the officer as a proper administrative hearing?

It is possible that the required procedures actually exist, but the officer simply didn't know them. Which, by the way, makes me suspect that the officer also did not meet the training requirements as specified by CVC 40215©(4)(B). Because of this uncertainty that the hearing may have been valid after all, I decided to file for small claims appeal and at the same time sent the county another letter pointing out the law and requesting, again, a copy of the procedures, the officer's training records and another, real hearing before the 90-day period (CVC 40215(B)) expires. The period has now expired and I received no response.

The real question now is: Should I move on with the small claims appeal or can I countersue the county in a whole new case for not following proper procedure? I heard the term "mandate of writ" in this context. Is that an avenue I can pursue and how would it work?

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Yes, you are correct. It is the superior court. I got confused because the court house handles these parking cases via their small claims office. But the decision notice of the administrative hearing shows "superior court" as next step to appeal and CVC 40230 also mentions superior court.

I showed the court clerk the hearing decision letter and they had Parking Appeals forms ready in the small claims office. I filed for $25 and now have a case number at the Superior Court of California. Sorry about the confusion. That's a good point though because I can bring a lawyer to the Superior Court, correct?

This case was indeed handled by the county. The ticket and every communication I received, including the administrative hearing, was by "County of Alameda" via a processing company "Parking Enforcement Center" in Irvine (http://www.EZPayCorp.com).

About "There was a decision. That is what you appealing." I know, the site here swallowed all paragraphs in my first post and it turned into this long, hard to read blob. But if you follow it through, my position is that there cannot be a valid decision because there was no valid hearing. But if there was no decision, then I have nothing to appeal. Am I wrong?

There are really two separate issues: whether I violated the law by stopping in the bus zone and whether the county violated the law by not following proper procedure. This is about the latter and if my suspicion is true, it would affect many other people too. I'm trying to figure out how best to pursue the latter.

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Yes you can hire an attorney to represent you at the de novo hearing. You could have done that from the get-go. Understand that the superior court "appeal" is actually a de novo hearing. That means the case is treated as if the administrative hearing never occurred so challenging how that prior hearing was done is a moot point. You can raise it with the court if you want but it isn't an issue-the issue is only did you illegally park. That you didn't consider the admin hearing to be a hearing doesn't have any relevance to that. You can, however, file a complaint and try to get the grand jury to investigate. See http://www.acgov.org/grandjury/complaint.htm

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I had my day in court and my ticket was dismissed. Yay! That's awesome.

But it still bothers me to no end that AC-Transit (the transit agency operated by Alameda County who wrote the ticket) tries to exploit the law to the utmost extent where they find it convenient, while disregarding it where they don't. Most people who get these tickets are on the hook for $260 for an extremely literal and pedantic interpretation of the law. I understand that, while you may have a discussion about the intent of the law vs. the letter of the law, it's of course their right to enforce it to the T. But then I'd expect that at least they hold themselves to the same standard and also follow the law to the T when it comes to their own procedures.

In my case, in the attempt to make a quick buck, not only did they overstep the boundaries of the law as now confirmed by the court, they also violated different parts of the law when dealing with my hearing request, as laid out in my posts above. This most certainly does not only affect me, but everyone who ever tried to get an administrative hearing for their ticket.

I looked into the Grand Jury but it seems all they can do is make a "suggestion" to correct issues. They cannot impose fines, they cannot enforce their findings. "Public shaming" in their annual report is as far as it goes. And they're not even obliged to deal with every complaint in the first place. So why do private citizens have to pay $260 for minor violations that don't harm anyone, while the county gets away with breaking the law with complete impunity in a way that DOES harm people?

This leads me to my questions:

After the court confirmed that my ticket was unjustified, can I get the county to keep me harmless with regards to my time and money spent dealing with their unjustified ticket? I could split that in two sub-questions:

In general, in California traffic cases, can you recover court fees and other expenses after having been found not guilty?

If not in general, does the answer change when you consider that the county did not hold a law-compliant hearing as required, and that the hearing officer most likely was not properly trained? Chances are, had it been a proper hearing, they would have dismissed the ticket right then and spared me the further expenses of going through the court. They harmed me (and certainly others) by breaking the law and I feel they should be held responsible.

Aside from this, is there any other remedy for AC-Transit's disregard of the law, other than the relatively toothless Grand Jury?

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you may be interested in this

http://www.parkingtoday.com/blog/2012/02/a-pound-of-flesh-or-maybe-an-ounce/

which is precisely about a parking dispute system that doesnt follow the rules

most dont

if you want to contact the attorney who filed the class action

he is here, but he does not practice in CA he is a NY lawyer helping his wife

https://pview.findlaw.com/view/1061980_1

here is the class action case number

Harriet P. Epstein and Stanley H. Epstein v. City of Santa Monica; ACS State and Local Solutions Inc. and Sheri E. Ross, Los Angeles Superior Court Case Number BS 132415.

i encounrtered the same ticketing system in my city and will be filing a class action if necessary

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