Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, No. 16-1031

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtAPPEL, Justice.
Citation922 N.W.2d 524
Parties Myron Dennis BEHM, Burton J. Brooks, Robby Lee Langston, David Leon Brodsky, Jeffrey R. Olson, and Geoff Tate Smith, Appellants, v. CITY OF CEDAR RAPIDS and Gatso USA, Inc., Appellees.
Decision Date25 January 2019
Docket NumberNo. 16-1031

922 N.W.2d 524

Myron Dennis BEHM, Burton J. Brooks, Robby Lee Langston, David Leon Brodsky, Jeffrey R. Olson, and Geoff Tate Smith, Appellants,
v.
CITY OF CEDAR RAPIDS and Gatso USA, Inc., Appellees.

No. 16-1031

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Filed January 25, 2019


James C. Larew of Larew Law Office, Iowa City, for appellants.

Elizabeth D. Jacobi, Assistant City Attorney, for appellee City of Cedar Rapids.

Paul D. Burns and Laura M. Hyer of Bradley & Riley PC, Iowa City, for appellee Gatso USA, Inc.

APPEL, Justice.

922 N.W.2d 533

In this case, we once again consider a range of issues related to an automated traffic enforcement (ATE) system. The City of Cedar Rapids (Cedar Rapids or City) enacted an ordinance designed to authorize and implement the establishment of an ATE system intended to detect drivers traveling in excess of speed limits within Cedar Rapids. Pursuant to the ordinance, Cedar Rapids contracted with Gatso USA, Inc. (Gatso) to install the ATE system, which included mounted cameras and radar equipment, and to provide the City with evidence of vehicles violating the speed limit at the ATE locations. The ATE ordinance imposed a civil penalty for a violation.

The plaintiffs filed a class-action petition against Cedar Rapids and Gatso. The plaintiffs sought damages and declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming the ATE system as implemented by the defendants violated the equal protection, due process, and privileges and immunities clauses of the Iowa Constitution. The plaintiffs also raised a number of other challenges, asserting that the administrative remedies under the ATE ordinance were in conflict with Iowa law, that the ATE ordinance as implemented by the City’s contract with Gatso unconstitutionally delegated governmental power to a private entity, and that the defendants were unjustly enriched by the revenues generated by the ATE system.

The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed.

We transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed the district court. In our original opinion, we vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court.

The City filed a petition for rehearing, asserting that we relied on an incorrect version of the City’s ATE ordinance in discussing the issue of preemption. We granted the City’s petition and vacated our earlier opinion.

Upon review, we find that the City’s petition for rehearing is well taken. We did not rely upon the ordinance in effect at the time of the motion for summary judgment in this case but on a later version of the ordinance. We therefore decided to grant rehearing. On rehearing, we consider only those aspects of our prior opinion affected by the error.

Upon rehearing, for the reasons below, we conclude that the district court properly granted summary judgment in this case.

I. Factual and Procedural Background.

A. Structure of Cedar Rapids’ ATE System.

1. The ordinance. In 2009, Cedar Rapids enacted an ordinance establishing an ATE system. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mun. Code § 61.138 (2016). The ordinance authorizes Cedar Rapids to "deploy, erect or cause to have erected an automated traffic enforcement system for making video images of vehicles that ... fail to obey speed regulations ... in the city." Id. § 61.138(a). The ordinance authorizes the hiring of a contractor "with which the City of Cedar Rapids contracts to provide equipment and/or services in connection with the Automated

922 N.W.2d 534

Traffic Enforcement System." Id. § 61.138(b)(2).

The ordinance provides that when the ATE system records a speeding vehicle violation, the contractor mails a notice of violation to the vehicle owner within thirty days after obtaining the owner’s identifying information. Id. § 61.138(d)(1). The ordinance further provides that a vehicle owner may contest the citation by requesting an administrative hearing "held at the Cedar Rapids Police Department before an administrative appeals board ... consisting of one or more impartial fact finders." Id. § 61.138(e)(1). Upon receiving the board’s decision, the ordinance provides a vehicle owner with the option of either paying the fine or submitting a request that the City file a municipal infraction in the small claims division of district court. Id. § 61.138(e)(1)–(2).

In any small claims court proceeding, Cedar Rapids is required to show "by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence" that the vehicle was travelling in excess of the posted speed limit. Iowa Code § 364.22(6)(b ) (2015). The ordinance authorizes a fine of between $25 and $750. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mun. Code § 61.138(c)–(d). The ordinance also notes that state-mandated court costs are added to the amount of the fine if the vehicle owner is found guilty after a small claims court proceeding. Id. § 61.138(e)(2); see also Iowa Code § 364.22(8).

2. Gatso’s contract with Cedar Rapids. Pursuant to the ordinance, Cedar Rapids entered into a contract with Gatso in 2009. The contract provided that Cedar Rapids and Gatso had previously identified locations where ATE equipment would be installed. Gatso was responsible for all costs and expenses associated with the installation, operation, and maintenance of the ATE equipment. Gatso agreed to keep the ATE system in compliance with all Cedar Rapids and Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) standards.

The contract provided that once the ATE system was operational, Gatso was responsible for developing images and obtaining data from the ATE equipment and presenting the information to the City as "an electronic violation package." The contract further provided that such violation packages would be processed through a web-based application that would allow the City’s police department to review, approve, or reject each violation before a citation was issued.

The contract provided that if Cedar Rapids rejected a violation, Cedar Rapids would report to Gatso the basis for the rejection. If Cedar Rapids approved a violation package, the contract called upon Gatso to send a citation to the registered owner of the vehicle by mail using its web-based program. If the registered owner chose to pay the citation, Gatso would accept violation payments on behalf of the City by check, credit card, or money order.

Under the contract, Gatso’s fee for services was $30 per paid violation, later reduced to $25 per paid violation. For its ATE services, Gatso received payments of $817,960, $2,537,280, $2,152,650, $2,137,140, and $1,163,400 from Cedar Rapids for calendar years 2010 through 2014. For the period between March 17, 2015, and January 25, 2016, Gatso received $1,749,143.

B. Gatso’s Notices to Alleged Violators.

1. Content of notice of violation. Each of the plaintiffs in this case received a "Notice of Violation" of the ATE ordinance. The notice of violation displayed the City of Cedar Rapids logo and had the signature of the Cedar Rapids law enforcement officer who approved issuing the citation.

922 N.W.2d 535

The front page of the notice of violation provided information about the time and place of the alleged violation along with two photos of the vehicle recorded by the ATE system. The front page of the notice of violation provided the following admonition:

Failure to pay the civil fine or to contest liability within (30) calendar days is an admission of liability in the full amount of the civil fine assessed and will result in the loss of your right to a hearing. In addition, you may be subject to formal collection procedures including, but not limited to, being reported to a credit reporting agency, and a civil lawsuit.

The backside of the notice of violation provided information about how to pay the civil penalty. It also stated that a person receiving the notice of violation had a right to contest the violation in person at an administrative hearing. The notice of violation suggested that recipients wishing to contest the violation "review the city ordinance, the images, and the actual recorded video (if applicable) of the infraction" and provided a limited list of "valid defenses." The list of valid defenses does not include a defense that the driver was a person other than the vehicle’s registered owner. The backside of the notice of violation cautioned that the failure to appear at an administrative hearing "will result in a final determination of liability." The notice of violation made no mention of the recipient’s option of requesting Cedar Rapids initiate a small claims action in district court where Cedar Rapids would bear the burden of proof of showing a violation "by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence." Iowa Code § 364.22(6)(b ).

2. Content of "notice of determination of liability." If the first notice of violation did not result in payment or the scheduling of an administrative hearing, Gatso sent out another document to the vehicle owner entitled "Notice of Determination 2nd Notice." As with the notice of violation, the notice of determination carried the City of Cedar Rapids logo and had the signature of a law enforcement officer.

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21 practice notes
  • State v. Wright, No. 19-0180
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 18 Junio 2021
    ...under the federal standard because he does not make a separate argument under the Iowa Constitution. See Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, 922 N.W.2d 524, 566 (Iowa 2019) ("The plaintiffs have not suggested that we should follow different substantive standards under the Iowa Constitution than w......
  • Thunderhawk v. Cnty. of Morton, Civil No.: 1:18-cv-00212
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of North Dakota
    • 1 Septiembre 2020
    ...a constitutional right to intrastate travel, however, that right is not absolute and may be restricted.")’ Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, 922 N.W.2d 524, 549 (Iowa 2019) ; ("[R]ights to interstate and intrastate travel are fundamental and, if infringed, may give rise to strict scrutiny under......
  • De Britto Bucco v. W. Iowa Tech Cmty. Coll., C21-4001-LTS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • 16 Agosto 2021
    ...plaintiffs must show an impairment of an interest in life, liberty or property by government action. Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, 922 N.W.2d 524, 566 (Iowa 2019). "Once a protected interest has been established, the next question is what procedural minima must be provided before the govern......
  • Godfrey v. State, No. 19-1954
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 30 Junio 2021
    ...based on an alleged violation of a statute is higher than that for proving a violation of the statute. See Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, 922 N.W.2d 524, 568 (Iowa 2019) (explaining that a statutory violation does not automatically convert to a due process violation). A salary statute, like ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • State v. Wright, No. 19-0180
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 18 Junio 2021
    ...under the federal standard because he does not make a separate argument under the Iowa Constitution. See Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, 922 N.W.2d 524, 566 (Iowa 2019) ("The plaintiffs have not suggested that we should follow different substantive standards under the Iowa Constitution than w......
  • Thunderhawk v. Cnty. of Morton, Civil No.: 1:18-cv-00212
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of North Dakota
    • 1 Septiembre 2020
    ...a constitutional right to intrastate travel, however, that right is not absolute and may be restricted.")’ Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, 922 N.W.2d 524, 549 (Iowa 2019) ; ("[R]ights to interstate and intrastate travel are fundamental and, if infringed, may give rise to strict scrutiny under......
  • De Britto Bucco v. W. Iowa Tech Cmty. Coll., C21-4001-LTS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • 16 Agosto 2021
    ...plaintiffs must show an impairment of an interest in life, liberty or property by government action. Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, 922 N.W.2d 524, 566 (Iowa 2019). "Once a protected interest has been established, the next question is what procedural minima must be provided before the govern......
  • Godfrey v. State, No. 19-1954
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 30 Junio 2021
    ...based on an alleged violation of a statute is higher than that for proving a violation of the statute. See Behm v. City of Cedar Rapids, 922 N.W.2d 524, 568 (Iowa 2019) (explaining that a statutory violation does not automatically convert to a due process violation). A salary statute, like ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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