Star Valley is 0-3 for photo enforcement appeals.
On Wednesday, a Payson superior court judge reversed two lower court speeding tickets.
Karen Buoy-Jestis and Ann Scavarda appealed their traffic citations, arguing Star Valley’s attorney violated ethical standards when he acted as both a prosecutor and witness in court.
Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill sided with both women, reversing the Star Valley Magistrate Court’s ruling. Scavarda’s attorney Michael Kielsky needs to submit additional paperwork regarding the case, so her dismissal is imminent.
With pending litigation, Star Valley Attorney Tim Grier said he could not comment.
Kielsky is so outraged with Grier’s “unethical” practices regarding speeding ticket litigation that he has contacted the State Bar and the Arizona Commission of Judicial Conduct for an investigation.
“I am going to try to get it shut down because what they are doing is clearly unlawful,” Kielsky said in a telephone interview.
The most recent cases follow Michele Power, who appealed her ticket last month and won.
Power argued that Star Valley failed to provide a witness for her to cross-examine and since there was no testimony that the ticket was properly certified, except for Grier who acted as both prosecutor and witness, the ticket was dismissible.
Kielsky and Buoy-Jestis gave similar arguments.
Cahill questioned Grier on the fairness of failing to bring anyone to court for defendants to cross-examine.
Grier said if the court wishes, Sharon Rappaport, Star Valley’s photo enforcement officer, could testify in court on what she sees when she pulls up a citation and determines reasonable grounds.
“If it bothers this court and you believe we should have a co-custodian, I guess I would have to ask the court, if what you want is to have our photo enforcement officer there to testify at every hearing and we could do that judge,” Grier said during Power’s hearing.
Cahill said it was important for Star Valley to bring more than one witness to court. “I might be wrong in that, but I don’t think so,” Cahill said.
He added he would follow up with Magistrate Court Judge Dorothy Little.
“Defendant Power was left with having to cross-examine a prosecutor who was not a percipient witness as he acknowledged, thereby leaving Ms. Power without anyone to examine. This was fundamentally unfair,” Cahill said.
Immediately after Power’s win, Grier asked the court to dismiss the Scavarda and Buoy-Jestis appeals, with Star Valley agreeing to give both women their money back and reversing their tickets.
Both women asked the Superior Court to hear their appeals anyway and the court denied Grier’s motion.
“He was cutting and running,” Kielsky said.
Kielsky argues Grier acting as a witness and prosecutor is wrong.
“Mr. Grier, though not sworn as a witness, repeatedly moved from advocacy to testimony, informing the trial court about specific details on the photo enforcement system, vendor, placement and verification, outside of any information present into the state’s exhibits,” Kielsky said. “The trial court repeatedly permitted Mr. Grier’s unsworn testimony, which was woven throughout his legal argument and advocacy to a point where they became almost indistinguishable.”
Civil Traffic Rules and Arizona Ethics Rules prohibit a lawyer from acting as an advocate and witness in the same trial.
With Grier’s testimony invalid, there is no substantial evidence that Power, Scavarda or Buoy-Jestis are responsible, Cahill found.
However, Cahill’s rulings only apply to individual cases, meaning, they do not carry over into the thousands of tickets Star Valley has issued since installing the cameras shortly after incorporating in 2006.
Kielsky said he is contacting the State Bar and Commission of Judicial Conduct to investigate Grier’s practices further.
“This is why I need to get the state bar and commission involved because Cahill’s rulings in these three cases only apply to those cases,” Kielsky said.
Furthermore, most people who get a photo enforcement ticket do not bother appealing because they do not live in the area, don’t have the wherewithal or the knowledge to do so.
“Most of the people who get tickets are not from Star Valley or even Arizona and Star Valley has been banking on this,” Kielsky said. “For most people, it is not worth fighting it.”
Kielsky said Star Valley could solve most of his objections if they provided a witness in court and had a real police officer sign tickets.