12/3/2012California Court of Appeal Shoots Down Traffic Camera Company
Second highest court in California summarily rejects attempt to overturn public vote against red light cameras in Murrieta.
The second highest court in California on Thursday issued an order summarily denying a traffic camera company's attempt to overturn election results from last month. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) was upset when 15,682 voters approved Measure N, requiring city officials to remove red light cameras once it is certified in the next two weeks.
ATS filed the suit under the name of its "No on Measure N" political action committee. Charles H. Bell Jr, the lead attorney from the high-priced election firm Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk, urged justices to adopt the reasoning of Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia who had ruled in August that the ballot measure was illegal on its face (view order).
"On November 6, 2012, the Initiative was passed by the voters of the city of Murrieta and according to estimates provided by the Murrieta city attorney, the initiative (such as it is) will become effective on or about December 15, 2012," Bell wrote. "As a result, an initiative measure that has already been declared illegal by a judge in the Riverside Superior Court -- a ruling left untouched by this court in the Serafin opinion -- will cause an expensive and needless removal of all red light cameras in Murrieta."
In the hopes of keeping those cameras up, ATS asked the court to answer one legal question: Did the legislature forbid voters from having a say in whether red light cameras are used? Bell cited a court case from 1961 to argue traffic regulations are statewide concerns beyond the initiative power.
"The legislature has specifically delegated the authorization of automated traffic enforcement systems to city councils, thereby precluding the municipal electorate from using the initiative process to either authorize or prohibit red light cameras," Bell wrote. "Therefore it is imperative that this Court issue an immediate stay prohibiting the Murrieta City Council from taking any action on the Initiative (known as Measure N) until this court has ruled on the legality of the measure."
Previously, the Court of Appeal ruled that it was premature for ATS and Judge Ottolia to block voters from weighing in on the proposition (view ruling). This time the appellate justices denied the request for a stay, saying its decision is final. As the traffic camera company admitted, it means the cameras will come down.
"If a temporary stay is not issued, the previous ruling by this court will remain in effect, which will cause the city council to undertake an expensive and needless removal of all red light cameras in city of Murrieta," Bell wrote last month.
On Tuesday, the Murrieta City Council will meet in closed session to discuss the status of the ATS lawsuit.