8/28/2006Albuquerque, NM Cameras Declare City Buses a Nuisance
Red light cameras in Albuquerque, New Mexico declare public buses a public nuisance. Bus drivers sue city.
Albuquerque, New Mexico's red light camera system operates on a legal fiction that vehicles, not drivers, are responsible for running red lights. Attorney Paul Livingston argues that this setup "provides ridiculous results" when the city's ordinance declares its own vehicles a public nuisance.
Livingston represents six city bus and van drivers who have banded together to challenge Albuquerque's red light camera program because it docked their pay $100 after a camera accused the public bus they had been driving of being a nuisance. Johnny Aguilar, Anthony Chavez, Yvonne Dougherty, Virginia Ramirez, Greg Montoya and John Sanchez maintain that they have been falsely accused and deprived of their constitutional right to due process because they were neither presented with the evidence of wrong-doing, nor any opportunity to challenge it.
Livingston filed a class action lawsuit last Thursday arguing that under the city's own logic, the owner, not the driver of the vehicle is responsible, which means in the case of city buses, Albuquerque itself is solely responsible for the fines. The class action seeks include any city employee who had a pay deduction without the opportunity for a hearing. Livingston filed a separate suit challenging the process set in place for ordinary citizens.
"We also object to the 'hearings' because there is only a city hearing officer -- who effectively works for the police department and the mayor -- and none of the rights one would have in a court," Livingston told TheNewspaper. "The camera is given preclusive effect.
Albuquerque's original red light camera ordinance has already been successfully challenged and modified. Initially, the city charged anyone challenging a fine a "hearing fee" of $50, even if they were found to be innocent. After the ACLU filed a lawsuit last year, the city revised its ordinance and dropped the fee. The full text of the lawsuit is available in a 602k PDF file at the source link below.