Oberhausen v. Louisville-Jefferson County, Civil Action No. 3:07CV-198-H.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
Citation527 F.Supp.2d 713
Decision Date19 December 2007
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 3:07CV-198-H.
PartiesMary OBERHAUSEN, et al., Plaintiffs v. LOUISVILLE-JEFFERSON COUNTY METRO GOVERNMENT, et. al., Defendants.

Page 713

527 F.Supp.2d 713
Mary OBERHAUSEN, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
LOUISVILLE-JEFFERSON COUNTY METRO GOVERNMENT, et. al., Defendants.
Civil Action No. 3:07CV-198-H.
United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division.
December 19, 2007.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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David B. Mour, Joseph C. Souza, Ruby D. Fenton-Iler, Borowitz & Goldsmith, PLC, Louisville, KY, for Plaintiffs.

Michael J. O'Connell, Parker & O'Connell, PLLC, William Patrick O'Brien, William T. Warner, Jefferson County Attorney, Louisville, KY, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN G. HEYBURN II, Chief Judge.


One of life's most trivial annoyances— the parking ticket—and one of our most fundamental constitutional protections— due process, form the unlikely nexus for Plaintiffs' challenge to Metro Government's enforcement of state and local parking regulations. The Court has devoted considerable effort considering these two at once without either inflating the significance of the former or trivializing the latter.

Plaintiffs focus their arguments on how Defendants' enforcement policies have violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, though they also allege violations of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the unreasonable seizures provisions of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as numerous state laws. Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' federal constitutional claims. The Court has considered the many issues raised and has discussed them with counsel. There seems little doubt that Defendants' procedures have failed to follow both state statutes and local ordinances in some respects. These transgressions, however, do not compel a federal remedy. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss the federal constitutional claims and remand the remaining claims to state court.

I.

It is important to set the context for the Court's consideration. To address the issues raised, the Court must understand (1) the identity of potential Plaintiffs, (2) the statutes, ordinances and practices which govern Defendants' actions and (3) the precise legal allegations that Plaintiffs raise. The Court must accept Plaintiffs' factual allegations as true. The precise nature of these factual and legal claims is important because Plaintiffs make a challenge to the ticketing policies as they are actually applied.

A.

Plaintiffs are eleven individuals who parked vehicles which they owned on streets in Louisville and have been cited for parking in violation of the parking ordinances. (Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ¶ 4). They state that parking tickets were placed on their vehicles. (Id. ¶ 16). Some paid their parking fines in response to the late penalty forgiveness offered by the "amnesty period" or at another time. (Id. at ¶ 23). Other Plaintiffs have neither contested nor paid their parking citations. They claim to "remain under the threat of having their vehicle immobilized by having a `boot' attached thereto in the event they park on a street and/or roadway within Louisville." (Id. at ¶ 26). One named Plaintiff claims that her vehicle was booted and subsequently impounded at the time her vehicle was issued its sixth parking citation. This same Plaintiff claims not to have received notice of the prior five prior citations because another member of her family was using her car and did not tell Plaintiff about the tickets.1

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Defendants are Louisville Metro (a consolidated local government), Jerry Abramson (the mayor of Louisville Metro), Rebecca Jackson (the former county-judge executive of Jefferson County), Robert White (Chief of Police of Louisville Metro), and Cathy Duncan, (Executive Administrator of Parking Authority of River City (PARC)) (collectively "Defendants" or "Metro Government"). Metro Government is responsible for enforcing parking violations in accordance with state laws and local ordinances. It has adopted policies and procedures to do so.

Plaintiffs propose to bring a class action on behalf of two groups of individuals. The first class seeks monetary damages and would consist of:

those persons who were threatened and/or coerced into involuntarily paying parking ticket fines and/or other assessments to the Defendants during the period of time wherein the Defendants failed and/or refused to comply with the Parking Enforcement Statutes and Louisville Metro's own Parking Citation Enforcement Ordinances ... (Id. at ¶ 27 a).

The second class seeks temporary and permanent injunctive and declaratory relief and would consist of "any person adversely affected by the Defendants' failure and/or refusal and continued failure and/or refusal to comply with the Parking Enforcement Statues and the parking Citation Enforcement Ordinances." (Id. at ¶ 27b).

B.

Since 1984, the "Local Government Parking Enforcement Act" has permitted local governments to enact parking ordinances and impose penalties for civil violations. Ky.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 82.640. Metro Government, in turn, enacted local parking ordinances and delegated PARC to administer and enforce them. These local ordinances are codified at §§ 72.120-134 of Louisville Metro Parking Ordinances. Under these ordinances, when a person violates a parking ordinance, Defendants place a parking citation on the vehicle windshield.2 Each citation specifies a seven-day time period within which the violator can either pay or contest the citation without incurring additional penalties.3

More specifically, each parking ticket contains the following statement printed on its back:

This notice represents a determination that a parking violation has been committed by the owner of this vehicle and the determination is final unless contested within seven (7) calendar days of issuance. Fines may be paid by mailing

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if paid within seven (7) calendar days of issuance. DO NOT MAIL CASH. If paid within seven (7) calendar days of issuance; you, may pay the discounted fine. Failure to pay may result in im poundment and/or immobilization of this vehicle, resulting in additional fees, including towing, handling, and storage. Fines may also be paid:

In person 8 am-5 pm at the Parking Office,

224 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.

By telephone—(502) 569-6222

Citations may be contested by appeal within seven (7) calendar days of issuance. To appeal this citation, get an appeal form online, or at the address indicated above, or call (502) 569-6222 to have a form sent to you.

Make checks payable to: PARC

YOU MUST RESPOND WITHIN 7 DAYS

Under the state statutes and local ordinances, the parking citation is the violator's first notice of the parking violation and his right to appeal.

The state statute provides for a second notice:

[i]f the owner of a vehicle cited for a parking violation has not responded to the notice within seven (7) days as provided in subsection (1) of this section, the local government shall send a second notice by certified mail to the last known address of the registered owner of the vehicle as listed on the certificate of title. Such notice shall state that if the owner of the vehicle does not respond to the notice by either paying the fine or by requesting in writing a hearing pursuant to KRS 82.620, within seven (7) days of the receipt of the notice, the owner shall be deemed to have waived his right to a hearing and the determination that a violation was committed shall be considered final . . . Ky.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 82.615(2).

Accordingly, Metro Government enacted local parking ordinance LMO § 72.125(B) which requires a second mailed notice containing the information described in Ky. Rev.Stat. Ann. § 82.615(2). However, instead of requiring the notice to be sent by certified mail, § 72.125(B) states that "Metro Government shall send a second notice by U.S. mail." Thus under both the statute and. Metro ordinance, a violator would have at least two weeks to contest a ticket (seven days from the date of the ticket until the second notice is mailed plus seven days from the receipt of the second notice). Under state law, the registered owner of the vehicle, regardless of the other circumstances, is liable for the fines and penalties. Ky.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 82.610.

In February 2007, Metro Government announced an "amnesty period" for individuals with outstanding parking tickets. During the amnesty period, parking violators could pay their Parking tickets and avoid all late fees and penalties. A few months later, Metro Government "upped the ante," announcing that they would immobilize or "boot" any illegally parked vehicle also found to have accumulated three (3) or more unpaid parking tickets. According to Plaintiffs, Metro Government booted approximately eighty vehicles before agreeing to stop the practice pending the outcome of this lawsuit. One Plaintiff says that she was unaware of tickets accumulated by family members and was surprised to find her vehicle booted and later impounded. Others claim to have paid their three or more outstanding tickets to avoid having their vehicle booted.

C.

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated the Kentucky statutes governing parking violation notices by: (1) failing to send any second notice by certified mail, as the state statute requires; (2) sending a second notice which fails to provide any information

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regarding the right to contest the citation as the state statute and local ordinances require4 (Ky.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 82.615; LMO § 72.125-26); and (3) providing notice of the citation and right to contest only through the initial ticket. Plaintiffs also contend that the violation notice fails to adequately inform them of their rights or about the possibility that their vehicle could be immobilized and impounded.5

Plaintiffs do not frame their complaint as a facial challenge to the constitutionality of Kentucky's statutory scheme.6 Rather, they argue strenuously that by failing to follow the statutory notice provisions, Defendants ignore Plaintiffs'...

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