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Carmel facing another federal lawsuit for its traffic ordinance

June 7, 2016

Carmel is facing another federal lawsuit in response to its speeding ordinance.

Jason Maraman, who recently won a state lawsuit appealing his traffic ticket from Carmel, filed a new complaint in federal court on Friday. He is accusing the Carmel police officer who pulled him over 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.

“The conduct is egregious, and it needs to be addressed,” Maraman told IBJ on Monday.

In June 2014, Maraman was pulled over and cited for driving 30 mph in a 20 mph zone. In the latest court filing, Maraman wrote that officer Scott Spillman testified that the speed limit was 20 mph, when it was actually 40 mph.

“Officer Spillman knowingly and intentionally gave false testimony in an attempt to secure a judgement against Maraman,” Maraman, who is representing himself, wrote in the complaint.

Maraman also told IBJ that the officer testified in one hearing that the traffic stop was conducted immediately after traveling through a roundabout, but in a different hearing said the roundabout hadn’t been constructed yet.

He argues that city attorney Ashley Ulbricht should have corrected his testimony at the time.

“At that point, she should have known he was giving false testimony,” Maraman said.

In April, the Indiana Supreme Court refused to hear other case between Maraman and Carmel, which involved whether the city’s traffic ordinance was lawful. Maraman had argued that it should be void because it was a duplicate of state law and violated Indiana’s Home Rule Act.

The case involved thousands of other speeding citations in which the police cited the local version of state law and collected revenue from violators.

In December, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Maraman. That decision was allowed to stand when the Indiana Supreme Court declined to take the case.

In May, the Carmel City Council voted to repeal its traffic ordinance. Carmel officers have been citing other ordinances when ticketing drivers.

Maraman said he filed the federal lawsuit because he felt like certain issues involving his traffic ticket weren’t addressed in or weren’t appropriate for the lower courts.

In the complaint, Maraman argued that the city violated his Fourth Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure, and his 14th Amendment rights of guaranteeing the right to travel.

He said he wants the city to conduct traffic stops consistently and to ensure that the department is videotaping all traffic stops, because his was not taped.

During his traffic stop, Maraman said Spillman told him that traffic laws were enforced differently in Carmel than in Marion County and drew unnecessary attention to the fact that Maraman wasn’t a Carmel resident.

“That just really stood out to me,” Maraman said. “Traffic laws should be enforced consistently.”

Maraman is requesting that the city be immediately prohibited from conducting unlawful traffic stops or enforcing city ordinances that illegally duplicate state law. The complaint also requests monetary damages of an undetermined amount to be paid to Maraman.

Carmel spokeswoman Nancy Heck said the city had not been officially served with the lawsuit yet, so it could not comment on the accusations.

The city is also defending itself in a federal class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Edward Bielski, president of Bielski Law LLC and a former partner of Stewart & Irwin PC.

The complaint argues that the city knowingly enforced an illegal traffic ordinance and wrongly collected money from citations based on the infractions “for the purpose of maximizing revenue to the city of Carmel.” It also alleges the city should have been required to share that revenue with the county and state.

The city is pushing to dismiss the case and most recently filed to impose sanctions against Bielski for continuing to pursue the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the city argue that Bielski “has filed frivolous pleadings without first conducting a reasonable and competent investigation of applicable law and undisputed facts.”

The city is also requesting to be reimbursed $85,000 from Bielski and the class-action plaintiffs for its legal fees in the case.
 

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