Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Christine Emerson
Observer Staff Writer 

Culture of Pressure in Traffic Court to Rule Against the Driver

Couldn't even reverse the high fees involved in a car being impounded for unpaid parking tickets because its owner was a soldier who'd been deployed overseas

 

September 7, 2016

Nishi remembers on one occasion in particular, he had wanted to reverse the high fees involved in a car being impounded for unpaid parking tickets because its owner was a soldier who'd been deployed overseas

The odds against drivers when it comes to parking tickets are even worse than most people think. David Goldstein, reporter for CBS2/KCAL9 is investigating a culture of pressure in traffic court to rule against the driver and in favor of the city.

Two traffic hearing officers have now come forward, claiming their supervisors would overrule the decisions they had made in favor of drivers.

Former Los Angeles traffic hearing officer Ernie Nishi decided parking ticket cases for ten years. "I believe there was a lot of pressure to rule in favor of the city," he is quoted as claiming. Nishi remembers on one occasion in particular, he had wanted to reverse the high fees involved in a car being impounded for unpaid parking tickets because its owner was a soldier who'd been deployed overseas. Nishi was overruled by his supervisor.

Traffic hearing officer Joe Kunkaew, also had his supervisor overrule him when he decided to rule in favor of a citizen with a $388 parking ticket. Kunkaew felt the decision by his boss was unfair.

Ultimately, after Goldstein's investigation, the $388 was returned to the driver.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation simultaneously denies there is any wrongdoing by supervisors and has promised to look into such allegations. It is unclear how the LADOT can deny wrongdoing before they have investigated, but perhaps they are using the same reasoning that is applied to arbitrarily overruling parking ticket relief.

Agreeing that the system is rigged against the driver is Jay Beeber of Safer Streets LA, a parking advocay group. "There is an inherent conflict of interest between these two entities [employees deciding parking ticket relief and the city who employs them and wants the parking ticket money] because they work for the city even though they're supposed to be independent. Their jobs to some extent are based on whether or not they find people guilty," Beeber says.

 

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