3/16/2012Missouri: Judge Backs Red Light Camera Program
Circuit judges in St. Louis city and county split on the legality of red light cameras.
Missouri's courts are split on the question of whether red light cameras violate the state's constitution and laws. Just last month, a circuit judge in the city of St. Louis ruled a camera program invalid because automated ticketing machines have not been sanctioned by the legislature (view opinion). On Monday, a circuit judge in St. Louis County came to the opposite conclusion.
A group of motorists had filed a class action suit against Creve Coeur seeking to compel the refund of fines collected without the General Assembly's authorization. Judge David Lee Vincent III found no merit in this argument because the ticket recipients failed to appeal their tickets to a final judgment in the courts and had no standing to make the challenge.
"No plaintiff in this action can properly state a claim for violation of the Missouri Constitution," Vincent wrote. "Nonetheless, should this case be appealed and this court's ruling in that effect be challenged, in order to avoid remand, the court will address the substantive issues raised by plaintiff's constitutional claims."
Judge Vincent fell back on the October 2011 state Court of Appeals ruling upholding Creve Coeur's ticketing program to dismiss complaints that the program deprived citation recipients of due process. He further argued that the legislature's approval was not needed because Creve Coeur has a home rule charter.
"A constitutional charter city derives its authority from the constitution, not statutes passed by the general assembly," Vincent wrote. "Under Article VI Section 19, the question to ask regarding municipal authority is not whether the general assembly has enacted a statute authorizing the municipality to so act but whether the constitution, statutes or charter specifically deny the municipal's ability to act."
Judge Vincent's reasoning departs from that found in a 2005 memo from Stinson Morrison Hecker, the very law firm that defended camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) in this case. The memo explained that no photo ticketing program could escape the legal duty to report license points to ticket recipients. Stinson attorney Jane Dueker, who served as lead counsel for ATS in this case, was part of the lobbying team that introduced red light cameras to the Show Me State in 2005.
A copy of the decision is available in a 2mb PDF file at the source link below.