2/13/2014Judge Shuts Down St Louis, Missouri Red Light Cameras
Judge issues permanent injunction closing the St. Louis, Missouri red light camera program.
Red light cameras and speed cameras are in trouble in Missouri. The state Court of Appeals recently reversed course on the legality of automated ticketing machines, issuing four separate opinions finding photo enforcement programs in violation of state law. On Tuesday, Missouri Circuit Court Judge Steven R. Ohmer decided to enforce the law with an order prohibiting the city of St. Louis and its vendor, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), from issuing automated citations.
Motorists Sarah Tupper and Sandra Thurmond filed suit last year after receiving tickets in the mail. On the same day a court hearing was scheduled, the city and ATS dismissed the tickets, thinking this would render the class action lawsuit moot. Judge Ohmer would not let the matter drop.
"Here, the issue of red light camera enforcement is of general public interest because it affects all drivers and owners of automobiles in St. Louis," Judge Ohmer wrote in his order. "The issue will also evade review if respondents continue to dismiss tickets when an injunction seems likely... Here, it is clear that the city dismissed the petitioners' tickets for the sole reason of avoiding an injunction in this matter, which the court was poised to enter following the November hearing. Voluntary cessation of certain conduct does not render a case moot if there is a reasonable expectation the wrong will be repeated..."
The wrong is question is St. Louis enforcing the red light camera ordinance that the Court of Appeals ruled was "void for failure to comply with the Supreme Court rules." The decision became final on October 30, 2013 when the Supreme Court refused to hear the city's appeal. In response to the ruling, St. Louis made a slight change to the ordinance and continued issuing citations.
"Despite the Court of Appeals clearly stating that the ordinance was 'invalid' and 'void,' the city has asserted the position that it could continue to enforce the ordinance," Judge Ohmer wrote. "The Court of Appeals said the ordinance was void. It did not say, as defendants argue, that the ordinance was valid except for the notice; in fact, it declined to rule on such issues as whether the ordinance violated due process, reasoning that it did not need to determine such issues because the ordinance was already found to be void and as such, unenforceable."
Judge Ohmer found the re-written ordinance was still deficient and, even if it were valid, it would still conflict with the recent appellate decisions finding the rebuttable presumption that a photo ticket recipient is guilty violates Article I, Section 10 of the Missouri Constitution (view ruling).
"Respondent city of St. Louis is hereby prohibited from proceeding with any enforcement of the red light camera ticket ordinance," Judge Ohmer wrote in his permanent injunction.
On Wednesday, the city issued a statement indicating it does not intend to follow Judge Ohmer's ruling.
"We have a court of appeals opinion from June 2013 that found only one small flaw with our program, which we fixed," said City Counselor Michael Garvin. "On Tuesday, a lower court judge issued a ruling, which conflicts with the court of appeals decision. We are trying to follow the various courts' decisions, but because there are so many conflicting rulings, it is difficult. So, this issue remains on a path to be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court."
A copy of the order is available in a 1.3mb PDF file at the source link below.