Lafayette’s SafeSpeed and SafeLight programs got the next best thing to a green light from the courts yesterday. United States Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill issued a Report and Recommendation to District Judge Tucker Melancon that the court toss out a complaint brought against the program by two Lafayette residents, who argue it is unconstitutional.
City attorney Pat Ottinger put out a press release and reviewed the recommendation at last night’s council meeting. The Magistrate Judge agreed with the city’s argument that because the program is designed to be a civil, not criminal, proceeding, it is not in violation of the Fifth and Sixth amendments, as the lawsuit contends.
In his press release, Ottinger says, “We are gratified that the Magistrate Judge, after taking the matter under advisement for further research and careful consideration, agreed with our position that the SafeSpeed Program is a civil, not criminal, proceeding. Thus, the arguments advanced in opposition to the program were found to be unfounded in law. No program of this type has been held violative of the United States Constitution by any court in the country.”
The recommendation goes to District Judge Tucker Melancon to decide on how the court will proceed with the case. The recommendation comes at an auspicious time for city-parish officials looking to move ahead with the program. At last night’s council meeting, city-parish Traffic and Transportation Director Tony Trammel submitted a new request to the council to invest $45,620 in revenue from the program into signs and support staff to help administer it. Trammel originally requested $152,500 - a request that the council denied, partly on concerns over the pending federal lawsuit. The council is scheduled to vote on the new request at its Jan. 20 meeting.