9/11/2015Texas: ATS Argues The People Have No Right To Vote On Traffic Cameras
Case submitted to the Texas Court of Appeals will decide whether the public has a say in the use of red light cameras.
The Texas Supreme Court in April refused to block Arlington residents from voting to outlaw red light cameras. As a result, sixty percent of those who cast ballots in the May election voted against photo enforcement. By a similar margin the electorate ousted the ticketing program's champion, Mayor Robert Cluck. On Thursday, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) was back in court trying to overturn the public's decision.
A three-judge panel of the Texas Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the post-election challenge to Arlington's ballot proposition prohibiting use of red light cameras. Instead of openly filing the challenge, ATS filed the suit in the name of resident Jody Weiderman and had Andy Taylor, a long-time attorney for ATS, represent Weiderman in court. When Taylor began arguing about the negative effect the ballot measure had on ATS, the judges interrupted.
"ATS is not a party to this lawsuit," Justice Sue Walker said. "They're paying for it, but they're not party to it. So how does it become an issue whether they're [ATS] getting paid under the contract or not?"
Taylor made several arguments about how the public has no right to vote on the issue, but the court panel wondered whether there was any point in reaching a decision on that question since the cameras are down and it is now too late to do anything about it. Arlington exercised the early termination provision of the contract to end its association with ATS even before the election results were certified.
"It's not the election occurring that made it moot," Justice Walker noted. "It's terminating the contract under the at-will provision that makes it moot, doesn't it?"
Arlington deputy city attorney Robert Fugate added that the suit is pointless because the plaintiff, Weiderman, suffered no injury that the court has power to correct. Had ATS sued voters directly, it could have plausibly argued that it suffered the injury of the loss of a ticketing contract.
Taylor's argument centered on the decision handed down by US District Court Lynn Hughes who attempted to block Houston residents from voting against red light cameras. Fugate pointed out that Judge Hughes was overturned on appeal.
"While we're on the topic of the Houston case," Fugate said. "The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said basically that ATS and the city of Houston were in collusion, where the city of Houston argued that case so that it would lose (view ruling). So we have all these references to Judge Hughes and this great city of Houston case. You have to consider that in the light that the city of Houston didn't try to win."
Citizens for a Better Arlington, the group that filed the anti-camera petition, believe that, unlike Houston, Arlington has strongly defended the public's right to vote.