Judge rules Chicago red-light and speed-camera tickets ‘void’
Chicago is taking yet another black eye for its mishandling of a highly controversial ticketing system, which has slapped drivers with hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.
A lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds for motorists ticketed under Chicago’s red-light and speed-camera system since 2003 lives on, after a Feb. 19 ruling from Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy.
Kennedy ruled harshly against the city, declaring officials violated “fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience.” She also deemed the tickets “void.”
It appears that the insufficient notice and ticket-contesting time the city gave drivers benefited the city’s bottom line – similar to the way in which illegal, shortened yellow-light times were a boon for Chicago government.
The lawsuit argues that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration failed to abide by the city’s own requirements in three ways: failing to issue second violation notices before issuing determinations of liability against ticketed motorists, failing to specify the makes of vehicles, and telling ticketed motorists they would be tagged with late fees 21 days after the city determined liability, rather than the 25-day period required by law. Kennedy sided with the plaintiffs on two of these three counts.
It remains to be seen how many thousands of motorists could receive refunds should the courts ultimately rule in favor of the plaintiffs. But the attorney representing them, Jacie Zolna of Myron M. Cherry & Associates, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the city could be forced to refund about one-third of the more than $600 million in fines assessed since 2003. Zolna is currently requesting class-action status for the lawsuit.
The fact that Chicago may not have played by its own rules in administering red-light tickets is no surprise.
The city certainly didn’t play by any rules in installing them, as an audit by the city’s Inspector General found no evidence that the city used safety data in deciding where to place the more than 300 cameras.
And it didn’t play by the rules in contracting either: Former Department of Transportation official John Bills was found guilty Jan. 26 of a massive corruption scheme wherein the court ruled Bills took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and perks from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. in exchange for helping the company win and maintain Chicago city contracts for its red-light camera system.