When you appeal an L.A. city parking ticket, your objection is automatically denied, with a few exceptions, by a non-city employee who works for a corporation that is contracted to do the job.
Those, at least, are the allegations in a "class action" lawsuit against City Hall by a man who says he was issued a ticket unjustly. The plaintiff won the case, his lawyer announced today, and the ripple effects could reach your wallet.
The judge, James Chalfant of Los Angeles Superior Court, ruled tentatively that the city can no longer outsource its appeals review process, the lawyer said. That could make it more difficult for the city to reject your objections:
According to a statement from attorney Caleb Marker, here's what happened to his client, Cody Weiss, when when he challenged a ticket from the city:
In litigation, Plaintiff learned that the City outsourced the entire operation of the City’s Parking Violations Bureau to Xerox. Xerox, in turn, subcontracts most of the operations to a company called PRWT. Plaintiff contends that the initial review process – the first step in challenging a parking ticket – conducted through this series of hand-offs is deeply flawed. First, PRWT is not accountable to the City and its employees are required to adhere to an hourly quota that includes initial reviews. Thus, an employee must review the motorist’s challenge, any evidence, the City’s rules, and render a decision in approximately three minutes or less. More troubling is Plaintiff’s contention that City rules require most initial reviews to be denied absent a few limited circumstances, and that some rules automatically deny the initial challenge, all without regard to evidence that a motorist may submit with the initial review, without ever disclosing to the motorist that his or her evidence was not actually considered. Naturally, most motorists give up and the City, through Xerox, collects millions of dollars.
The judge wrote in his tentative ruling that ...
... the statutory scheme requires the City as issuing agency to conduct the initial review, and it may not delegate that task to its processing agency, Xerox.
Marker told us that he believes the ruling will prevent City Hall from contracting out its review process. "Under the court's ruling the city will be required to start conduct initial reviews itself," he said.
The suit named the city and Xerox. It did ask for injunctive relief, Marker said. That means the judge will likely issue a writ by next month that orders the city to stop this practice.
It's not clear if the ruling would invalidate other tickets challenged under the city's system. But Marker said he had indications that Xerox, at least, would appeal.
We reached out to the L.A. Department of Transportation for its reaction but had yet to hear back.
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The ticket in question omitted the plaintiff's vehicle identification number, which is apparently required, and was issued in error for parking beyond a time limit (the man had moved his car), Marker contends.
The attorney believes the decision could apply statewide because it's based on California vehicle code. "We think this ruling has effect across California, not just in L.A.," he told us.
[Added at 2:38 p.m.]: A spokesman for the L.A. City Attorney's office said the ruling was being reviewed. He otherwise had no comment.