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Washington: Activist Judge Shuts Down Anti-Camera Vote
County judge in Washington state sides with camera vendor in shutting down public vote on red light cameras.

Judge John E. BridgesA judge with a history of overturning the will of Washington voters decided Friday to block the public from a say in the use of red light cameras. Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges sided with traffic camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) which filed the suit to prevent a repeat of what happened in Mukilteo. In November, residents were allowed to vote on an anti-camera initiative, and 71 percent voted to ban the devices.

"Defendants We the People Wenatchee, Washington Campaign for Liberty,, and intervenor-defendant Matt Erickson are enjoined from submitting proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 to the city of Wenatchee and/or Chelan County for inclusion on the ballot, and defendants Chelan County and Skip Moore (in his official capacity as Chelan County Auditor) are enjoined from taking any action to process proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 or to include proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 on the ballot," Judge Bridges wrote.

Bridges endorsed the ATS position which held that the legislature gave the city council -- not the people -- the ability to decide whether to use red light cameras and speed cameras. He also sided with the company's argument that no contract with a photo enforcement firm could be voided in any way for the duration of the contract. Under this reasoning, a city council could sign a long-term 50-year contract with a camera vendor. Such a decision would be binding for a half-century. Even if the public were to vote out the council, nothing could be done to undo the ordinance.

The decision is at odds with that of a Snohomish County Superior Court judge who ruled last year with respect to the Mukilteo initiative that it would have been premature to side with ATS in attempting to stop the election before it happened (view order). Erickson argued that the ATS legal challenge and the inevitable appeal was a transparent attempt to thwart the democratic process.

"The unavoidable result of the city filing a pre-election challenge is to distract the signature-gathering drive for proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1, at least if those gathering signatures care to have a voice defending their position in court," Erickson wrote. "One could say that the decision to seek a pre-election challenge of proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 was a 'can't lose' proposition for the city and ATS, for even if they lost in court, they could perhaps impact the signature drive sufficiently such that it could prevent the proposed initiative from qualifying for the ballot."

Appointed to the bench by Democratic Governor Booth Gardner, Bridges is best known for siding with the election of Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, over Dino Rossi, a Republican who was declared victor in the first two counts of the ballot.

A copy of the judge's order is available in a 1.2mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Order Granting City of Wenatchee Motion (Chelan County, Washington Superior Court, 5/20/2011)

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