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Red Light Camera Challenge Fails Before State Supreme Court

By Mike Brockway | November 20, 2014 11:22am | Updated on November 20, 2014 1:25pm
 A sign warns drivers of the red light camera at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Kedzie Avenue.
A sign warns drivers of the red light camera at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Kedzie Avenue.
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CHICAGO — A legal challenge to Chicago's red light cameras was dismissed Thursday by the Illinois Supreme Court — a result that came about after two judges recused themselves and the remaining four were split on the matter.

The class action lawsuit argued that all Chicago red light tickets issued between 2003 and 2006, before a 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 contended every red light camera ticket issued in the city beyond 2006 was invalid because Chicago never drafted a new ordinance after the state enacted its red light camera law in 2006.

The city has always argued it had the right to establish the program under home rule authority.

Mike Brockway says it's an anti-climactic end for the case:

It was not explained why Justices Lloyd Krameir and Ann Burke recused themselves. Burke is the wife of Ald. Ed Burke (14th), who serves as Chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee.

"In this case, two Justices of this Court have recused themselves and the remaining members of the Court are divided so that it is not possible to secure the constitutionally required concurrence of four judges for a decision," the short decision states. "Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed. The effect of this dismissal is the same as an affirmance by an equally divided court of the decision under review but is of no precedential value.

The original class action lawsuit, Keating v. City of Chicago, was filed in Cook County Circuit Court in 2010 but was dismissed in 2012 and upheld on appeal last year. Oral arguments were heard by the court on May 22nd of this year.

The attorney representing the plaintiffs said he was disappointed.

"We respect the efforts the justices put into this case," said attorney Patrick Keating, adding that he was heartened that the justices who sided with his argument "felt so strongly about it that they would not agree to become a majority opinion upholding the case."

In a statement, the city's law department said, "We are pleased that today's Supreme Court decision leaves that important ruling — and the red light camera program's proven public safety benefits — in place."

Chicago has the nation’s largest red light camera enforcement program. At its peak it had 384 cameras at 191 intersections and has generated over half a billion dollars in revenue for the city over the last 11 years.

This case does not end challenges to the city's red light camera program, though. Keating and his legal team filed a similar class action (Cata v. City of Chicago) in 2012, which is pending in  Cook County Ciruit Court.

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