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Plaintiffs in Carmel class-action traffic lawsuit file appeal

November 7, 2016

The plaintiffs in a federal class-action lawsuit filed against the city of Carmel for its enforcement of a local traffic ordinance are appealing the dismissal of the case in early October.

U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed the lawsuit on Oct. 6, saying the complaint did not tie the alleged harm to the Carmel defendants.

Attorney Edward Bielski, president of Bielski Law LLC, filed the lawsuit at the end of last year against Mayor Jim Brainard, Carmel City Council members from 2014 and 2015, Carmel City Court, Carmel City Judge Brian Poindexter, Carmel attorney Doug Haney and Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Superintendent Kent Abernathy, alleging the city knowingly enforced an illegal traffic ordinance and wrongly collected money from citations “to maximize city revenue.”

The lawsuit named 18 plaintiffs, of which only two were Carmel residents. All had been cited under Carmel’s local traffic ordinance, which was deemed invalid by the Indiana Court of Appeals in a separate lawsuit last year.

The plaintiffs claimed the illegal citations resulted in higher auto insurance rates and points on their driver's licenses. The complaint also said plaintiffs were given false information regarding their traffic infractions, so they couldn’t properly defend themselves.

It also alleged city police had a policy of wrongly ticketing drivers on Interstate 465 and wrongly ticketing drivers for non-moving violations.

Carmel had argued that the “harm” the plaintiffs described would have occurred regardless of how they were cited because all of them admitted to the traffic violations.

Magnus-Stinson agreed with the city in her decision, saying many of the plaintiffs’ claims were “too speculative” and lacked standing.

Bielski told IBJ shortly after the ruling that he disagreed with the decision and would be evaluating the potential for an appeal. He filed the appeal Thursday.

“Unfortunately, what this means for the affected drivers is that there will be a longer and more expensive road to what we hope will ultimately be justice,” Bielski said.

The suit stems from the city’s previous traffic ordinance that was found to violate the state’s Home Rule Act because it duplicated state law. The Indiana Court of Appeals decided that case Dec. 11, and the city later repealed the ordinance in question. That lawsuit had been filed by Jason Maraman, who had been pulled over and cited for driving 30 mph in a construction zone with a 20 mph speed limit.

Maraman is still pursuing another federal lawsuit against the city in which he accuses a Carmel police officer of giving false testimony and targeting his vehicle for having an out-of-county license plate. He also accuses the officer of inappropriately attempting to speak with a judge during a recess in one of the previous hearings.

In the district court ruling, Magnus-Stinson accused the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit of trying to “piggyback onto Mr. Maraman’s success.”

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