10/30/2014Florida Judge Bans Public Vote On Red Light Cameras
County judge blocks the public from deciding whether red light cameras should be used in Brooksville, Florida.
Red light cameras will not be on the ballot in Brooksville, Florida for Tuesday's election. Hernando County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Eineman ruled this week in favor of a private traffic camera vendor and the city in denying the right of citizens to vote on a charter amendment regarding automated ticketing machines. Judge Eineman blocked this vote on the grounds that, if successful, it might block a theoretical future vote on the issue.
"The proposed charter amendment if passed would remove or eliminate the power of the Brooksville city council to take any action that may result in the authorization of the use of red light cameras in the future," Judge Eineman declared. "For example, the Brooksville city council would be prohibited from submitting to the electors of the city by ordinance a proposed charter amendment authorizing the use of red light cameras in the future. However, the explicit language of Chapter 166.031, Florida Statutes, allows for the governing body of a municipality by ordinance to submit to the electors of a municipality a proposed amendment to the charter."
More than two dozen cities across ten states have outlawed red light cameras or speed cameras at the ballot box (view list), but Judge Eineman, a divorce lawyer elevated to the bench in January, sided with the ticketing industry's argument that such matters are not for the people to decide. Judge Eineman declared that the ballot measure violates the same statute requiring uniformity of traffic laws that the Florida Supreme Court used earlier this year to declare illegal all red light camera programs that operated in the state prior to 2010 (view ruling).
As a result, the judge granted Brooksville's motion for summary judgment, blocking the election without giving any consideration to the petition circulators who argued the city has a legal duty to place the item on the ballot. Lower court judges have attempted to block anti-camera initiatives in other states only to be overturned on appeal. The Ohio Supreme Court last month chided Maple Heights for attempting to block the vote (view ruling). In 2012, the California Court of Appeal overturned a county judge who attempted to stop a city that ultimately voted to get rid of the cameras, saying it was premature to stop a vote before it happens because voters might say no to the proposal (view ruling). In the biggest rebuke of all, the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals slammed lower court federal Judge Lynn N. Hughes, who has close ties to the camera industry, for interfering with the public vote in Houston (view ruling).
Though it ultimately sided with the traffic camera industry on the legality of an anti-camera ordinance on a 5-4 vote, the Washington Supreme Court refused to block a vote on the issue.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 550k PDF file at the source link below.