Enforcement of ordinance on hold
By jason brown
September 27, 2012
LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Consolidated Government paid $70,000 to a man who challenged the constitutionality of the city-parish’s junked vehicle ordinance in a 2007 lawsuit, according to the settlement agreement.
The settlement between the city-parish and George Phillips Jr. was reached in July and finalized Aug. 13. As a condition of the settlement, the city-parish also agreed to pay up to $2,500 to cover Phillips’ court costs.
The terms of the settlement were not released to The Advocate until Friday.
Phillips sued the city-parish in response to the seizure of four of his vehicles — a 1985 Lincoln Town Car, a 1995 Dodge pickup, a 1986 Plymouth Voyager and a 1988 Plymouth Grand Fury, all of which were parked at rental property owned by Phillips.
Phillips alleged in court records that the ordinance was unfairly vague and discriminated against people in certain areas of Lafayette. The property where Phillips’ vehicles were seized is on the north side of town, where most of the junked vehicle violations have occurred.
The city-parish halted enforcement of the ordinance in response to the lawsuit. The ordinance has remained tabled since then.
In July, Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said the settlement means the city-parish’s legal counsel can begin to revise the ordinance in a fashion that “we think will pass legal muster.”
Stanley said Friday that there is no timetable for when a revised ordinance might be ready.
In July, Stanley said the city-parish must find a way to balance government’s response to citizen requests while at the same time finding something that’s constitutional.
Early on in the case, 15th Judicial District Judge Edward Rubin declared the ordinance unconstitutional, ruling that its exemption for vehicles kept in an enclosed building, including a carport or garage, “could result in the discrimination against citizens who do not have or otherwise possess a carport or garage.”
Rubin also wrote that to “confiscate the property of any citizen under an ordinance,” based upon the subjective notion of appearance or location of one’s property, is a violation of basic constitutional law.
The city-parish appealed Rubin’s decision to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in December 2008 that the judge was premature in striking down the law. The case was sent back to state District Court and later set aside until the four misdemeanor junked vehicle violations Phillips was charged with were adjudicated.
The city-parish dismissed the criminal case against Phillips in November 2010, which renewed action in the civil case.