A lawsuit challenges a new Chicago ordinance intended to turn hundreds of millions of dollars worth of invalid speed and red light camera tickets into brand new debts. Mayor Emanuel can’t have his fairy tale ending.
In an effort to avoid the consequences of a high-stakes lawsuit filed by motorists, the City of Chicago, at the behest of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, passed an ordinance on September 21, 2016 which purports to authorize new administrative hearings on alleged speed and red light camera offenses that occurred years ago and which had already been found illegal and void.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel quietly proposed the ordinance after a Judge ruled that hundreds of millions of dollars in past speed and red light camera rickets are void because the City failed to provide mandatory notices to drivers and then charged late penalties that drivers did not actually owe.
On November 1, 2016, two motorists filed suit challenging the legality and constitutionality of the ordinance. The first page of the lawsuit reads:
Once Upon a Time…
Once upon a time, there was a Mayor out of luck.
The Mayor had spent his City’s last buck.
He asked all of his horses and men what to do,
but not a single one had a solitary clue.
But then a new staffer, short in stature, had a plan.
A plan that would fix all the problems in the land.
“Mr. Mayor!” he cried. “I know just what to do!
We’ll spin straw into gold to raise revenue.”
The Mayor got quiet. You could only hear crickets.
He had no straw at all, just void speed camera tickets.
The little aide jumped up. “Those old tickets are fine! The red light tickets too! We’ll take these void tickets and turn old debts into new!”
The Mayor smiled. He just had to laugh.
You can always balance the budget with Rumpelstiltskin on staff.
- Unfortunately, this is no fairy tale. It is just the latest chapter in the City of Chicago’s scandal-plagued speed and red light camera program.
- Over the past decade, the City has collected hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and penalties from individuals accused of speed and red light camera violations. Because the City failed to properly notify these individuals of their alleged violations and illegally sped up the imposition of liability, a Judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County recently held that those fines and penalties are illegal and void. See Simpson et al. v. City of Chicago, Case No. 15 CH 4802 (Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois).
- On the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal fines and penalties, the City recently passed an ordinance that purports to allow it to issue new tickets and initiate new hearings that will create new liabilities, fines and penalties based on tickets issued years ago that a Judge has already ruled were void.
- Unfortunately for the City, in the real world Rumpelstiltskin cannot save the day. That is because the Illinois Vehicle Code and the Illinois and United States Constitutions specifically prohibit the procedures the Ordinance purports to authorize.
According to lawyers for the Plaintiffs, the new ordinance is illegal because the Illinois Vehicle Code sets forth specified procedures that must be followed for the enforcement of speed and red light camera violations and the ordinance is inconsistent with nearly every one of those procedural safeguards. The lawsuit also claims that the ordinance violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Illinois and United States Constitutions.
The lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Myron M. Cherry & Associates in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.