7/15/2016Federal Judge Tosses Missouri Red Light Camera Lawsuit
US district court judge rejects a weak case offered against the use of red light cameras in Hannibal, Missouri.
A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a class action lawsuit filed against the Hannibal, Missouri's red light camera program. Motorists Sarah and Jacob Blair each received tickets in the mail between 2011 and 2012. They argued that the cameras that produced the citations were merely a cash grab that diminished public safety. US District Judge E. Richard Webber believed that even though photo enforcement programs are entirely run by private, for-profit companies, sovereign immunity prevents Hannibal from being sued.
"It has consistently been determined the enactment and enforcement of ordinances are governmental functions, which are protected by sovereign immunity," Judge Webber wrote. "Even if the sole motivation of the local government was profit, the activity can still be governmental."
Judge Webber's ruling was based on what he described as an inadequately developed argument on the part of the Blairs. He asked on several occasions for revised arguments, but he was not swayed by the briefs that were supplied. For example, he found that stating Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia and Hannibal generated $500,000 in revenue was not sufficient to establish conclusively that the program is a cash grab.
"The contract between Redflex and Hannibal states a flat fee of $39 per paid citation will be paid to Redflex," Judge Webber wrote. "Subsequently there are no facts stating how much, in profit, Hannibal made from this program, how much the program costs, or any other facts related to Hannibal's revenue. Plaintiffs have merely provided labels and conclusions for Hannibal's conduct and lack any formulaic recitation of elements to demonstrate Hannibal was not acting in a governmental nature."
In a preliminary ruling in April, Judge Webber dismissed claims that Redflex was illegally practicing law by making judgments about whether traffic violations occurred, sending notices of violation, receiving affidavits from motorists, collecting fines and encouraging motorists to 'just pay the fine.' While unauthorized practice of law is a serious charge, it would only apply if Redflex were issuing tickets on its own behalf instead of on Hannibal's behalf. Providing advice about paying tickets would only be a crime if Redflex had charged motorists for the advice.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.