Illinois Supreme Court dismisses challenge to red-light cameras
In a strange turn of events, the Illinois Supreme Court on Nov. 20 dismissed a challenge to Chicago’s red-light camera program.
In a strange turn of events, the Illinois Supreme Court on Nov. 20 dismissed a challenge to Chicago’s red-light camera program because two justices didn’t weigh in and the remaining justices were divided and therefore could not, in their words, “secure the constitutionally required concurrence of four judges for a decision.”
The two justices who did not participate, Lloyd Karmeier and Anne Burke, recused themselves from the case. The decision didn’t explain why they refused to participate, but judges typically recuse themselves if there’s a conflict of interest that could cause people to question the objectivity of their ruling. According to the Chicago Tribune, Justice Anne Burke’s husband, Chicago 14th Ward Alderman Edward Burke, served in city council when the red-light program was approved and has some connection to a major competitor of Redflex, the city’s first red-light camera vendor. Redflex later lost that contract in the aftermath of a bribery scandal, also revealed by the Tribune.
The class-action lawsuit argued that Chicago’s red-light camera program, which began in 2003, was unconstitutional because the General Assembly hadn’t passed legislation allowing such a program, which violated the Illinois Vehicle Code’s requirement that traffic laws be uniform in their enforcement.
Even though Chicago’s red-light camera program survived this challenge, it will likely continue be mired in controversy. In August, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the city would review 16,000 of the tickets issued after investigations found “suspicious ticket spikes,” and one judge tossed out as much as 70 percent of red-light tickets issued because the yellow light failed to last for the required three seconds. As of Oct. 3, the city had offered 126 refunds with no explanation for the spikes.
Red-light camera tickets have earned the city more than $500 million since 2003. The court’s dismissal makes it unlikely this revenue stream will dry up anytime soon.