4/21/2015Federal Judge Finds No Injury From Redflex Bribery
US district court rejects claim that corrupt conduct in Chicago, Illinois renders a red light camera ticket void.
Motorists in Chicago, Illinois cannot cite the federal bribery charges against top Redflex officials as a way to get out of paying a red light camera ticket. US District Court Judge Amy J. St. Eve came to that tentative conclusion earlier this month after Matthew G. Falkner challenged the automated ticket he received in the mail based on a photograph of his Infiniti taken on January 19, 2013. Falkner argued that paying the fine would reward the illegal activities of Redflex.
"Plaintiff argues that he has a legally protected interest in not having the city fund Redflex's wrongfully procured, above-market compensation with the proceeds of his red light ticket," Judge St. Eve wrote in her opinion. "This argument fails because the city's payments to Redflex had no effect on the fines that plaintiff (and the proposed class) paid to the city."
Falkner was fined $100, an amount that has not changed since another vendor took the place of Redflex in running Chicago's 384 cameras. As a result, Falkner could not show that he had suffered any particular injury directly tied to the bribery. One co-conspirator has already entered a guilty plea in the scandal in which Redflex supplied cash and other benefits to a Chicago official in return for landing the contract that generated $500 million in citations. The court was not convinced this sweetheart deal affected Falkner because the city, not Falkner, lost on the deal.
"If the city should have only paid Redflex $80 million, for example, then the city would have kept $420 million, but the proposed class would still have paid the city $500 million," Judge St. Eve reasoned. "Put slightly differently, plaintiff only alleges that the proposed class paid a fixed amount of fines to the city, of which the city distributed too much as compensation to Redflex. Plaintiff does not plead facts establishing that Reflex's alleged bribery caused plaintiff or any of the other proposed class members any injury."
Falkner at first argued that Chicago violated the state's red light camera law in delegating to the Australian firm the power to declare a motorist's guilt. Redflex countered that it does not determine guilt because this function is outsourced to IBM, which performs a "second review" of all citations. Falkner then shifted to say this arrangement, allowed under the Illinois red light camera statute, violates the state constitution.
"Plaintiff cannot have it both ways," Judge St. Eve wrote. "If his claim is that the city followed the statute but the statute itself is unconstitutional, he cannot argue that he has standing because Redflex bribed the city to not follow the statute."
The court did not shut the door on Falkner, giving him a chance to come up with a consistent legal theory.
"While the court will provide plaintiff with one more chance to amend his complaint, this will likely be plaintiff's final opportunity," Judge St. Eve concluded. "Although the court does not address defendant's additional arguments because it finds that plaintiff has not adequately pled facts to establish standing, plaintiff should consider them carefully if he chooses to file another complaint."
A copy of the ruling is available in a 40k PDF file at the source link below.