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Illinois Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Chicago Red Light Camera Case

By Mike Brockway | September 25, 2013 4:49pm | Updated on September 25, 2013 6:33pm
 A sign warns drivers of the red light camera at the intersection of Irving Park and Kedzie.
A sign warns drivers of the red light camera at the intersection of Irving Park and Kedzie.
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CHICAGO — The Illinois Supreme Court will hear a case challenging the legality of Chicago's red light cameras, giving new life to a 3-year-old lawsuit that was dismissed by a lower court.

Several motorists filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of red light cameras back in 2010. But the case was dismissed by the Cook County Circuit Court in 2011 and that ruling was unanimously upheld by  the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court in January.

John Bowman, spokesperson for the National Motorists Association, a group that opposed automated traffic enforcement, says their organization is pleased Illinois' high court has decided to take the case.

"It seems like the appellate court that rejected the original class action suit had to engage in some pretty twisted logic to come to its ruling, such as its observation that the cameras don’t actually record moving violations since they only capture still images," said Bowman about the prior court ruling. "We hope the Illinois Supreme Court engages in some common-sense collective thinking when considering the facts of the case."

Simmons Law Firm filed its petition to be heard by the Supreme Court in May.

The lawsuit, Keating vs. City of Chicago, claimed the city did not have the right to establish its red light camera program when it was first created in 2003 because the General Assembly had not yet passed a law allowing that type of automated traffic enforcement in Illinois.

In the class action filing, the plaintiffs believed all Chicago red light tickets issued between 2003 and 2006, before the state law was passed to allow red light camera enforcement in eight counties — Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, Will, McHenry and St. Clair — were invalid.

The lawsuit also contends every red light camera ticket issued beyond 2006 is invalid because Chicago never drafted a new ordinance after the state enacted its red light camera law in 2006.

But the city has always contended it had the right to establish the program under home rule authority, which is the ability for municipalities with populations over 25,000 to pass laws that might normally be issued at the state level. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued home rule should not apply to laws which fall under the Illinois Vehicle Code.

A spokesman for the city did not immediately comment on Wednesday's decision. When the appellate court upheld the dismissal of the case in January, Chicago Law Dept. spokesman Roderick Drew said the court got it right.

"We are pleased that the appellate court has upheld the validity of our ordinance and dismissed this case in its entirety," Drew said in January.

Chicago's 384 cameras posted at 191 separate intersections generated close to $70 million a year in revenue in 2012.

In the latest decision, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke recused herself from deciding whether the court should take the case. Burke is the wife of Ald. Ed Burke (14th),  who serves as Chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee.