This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A fight over parking tickets has reached the Utah Supreme Court, where a lawyer argued Wednesday that Salt Lake City was unjustly enriched and violated motorists' due process rights after it replaced curbside meters in 2012 with electronic pay stations.
Attorney R. Shane Johnson said the city had collected parking fees and fines "without authority of law" because its parking ordinance was not updated to cover the new kiosks until two years after they were installed.
And that lack of authority means Salt Lake City must refund the parking revenue it took from motorists under an obsolete law, Johnson said, who was arguing on behalf of three Utahns who got tickets before the ordinance was changed.
The three plaintiffs filed a proposed class-action suit in 2014 seeking refunds of parking fees and parking violation fines paid by themselves and others, which could involve millions of dollars.
Margaret Plane, an attorney for Salt Lake City, disputed that the city had been unjustly enriched and said the underlying purpose of the parking ordinance did not change with the switch to pay stations.
She also said there was no due process violation because the three plaintiffs had received notices that they could have a hearing to fight their tickets. One challenged a ticket and won, Plane noted.
The justices took the arguments under consideration.
In late 2011 to March 2012, Salt Lake City replaced all of its 2,100 coin-operated meters with 344 parking pay stations that cover multiple spots, according to court records.
City code at the time defined parking meters as "immediately contiguous" to the spaces being charged; "parking spaces" as being "adjacent to a parking meter"; and meters as coin-activated.
The three plaintiffs filed suit in June 2014, seeking refunds for the money collected under the outdated parking ordinance. The City Council voted on July 15, 2014, to update that law.
According to the suit, the city issued approximately 121,460 parking notices in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, and 143,813 in fiscal 2014.
Parking fees collected were $1,700,848 for fiscal 2012 and $2,889,212 for fiscal 2013, with $3,222,030 in revenue projected for fiscal 2014, the suit says. Parking violation fees collected were $3,374,059 for fiscal 2012 and $3,041,875 for fiscal 2013, and $4,335,000 projected for fiscal year 2014.
Salt Lake City also listed approximately $5.4 million in outstanding parking violation fines for fiscal 2014, and projected that number would rise to $5.6 million in 2015.
Salt Lake City lawyers filed a motion for dismissal, arguing that it was not "inequitable" for the city to keep the parking revenue and that the prior code was adequate to allow for enforcement.
Third District Judge Robert Faust granted the motion and the motorists appealed. The Utah Court of Appeals heard arguments last year but the case was transferred to the Supreme Court before a ruling was issued.