Red Light Camera Lawsuit Removed From State Court To Federal Judicial System

VICTORVILLE—The stakes have grown considerably higher in the class action lawsuit challenging the city of Victorville’s use of remotely viewed cameras to issue traffic citations to motorists allegedly running red lights.
The attorney representing the city requested that the matter be moved from Superior Court in Victorville to the federal judicial system and the court complied. Whereas previously the matter promised to merely extend no further than the claim against the city of Victorville and Australia-based Redflex Traffic Systems that 4,300 people who had received tickets from Victorville’s red light camera system stood to recover over $9 million in actual damages and the court’s determination of proper punitive damages from the defendants, a ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor in federal court could now mean the end of the use of red light cameras nationwide.
In lodging his suit, Barstow-based attorney Robert Conaway asserted on behalf of lead plaintiff Michael Curran and the others who have joined him in the suit that the use of cameras to issue tickets is unconstitutional and illegal because those ticketed are not allowed to confront their accuser and that there is a conflict of interest in allowing Redflex, which has a financial interest in seeing alleged red light runners convicted, to collect, analyze, process and store the evidence used against those cited.
According to Conaway, the camera system “violates the long standing legal rule that for an officer to cite a citizen for an infraction, it must be done ‘In the presence’ of the officer.” Conaway maintains that those reviewing the videos are non-sworn Redflex employees, such that the information obtained by the officers who sign the petitions is hearsay and thus inadmissible as evidence.
Specifically cited in the suit was 42 USC 1983, which protects an American citizen’s Sixth Amendment rights to face his accuser. According to Conaway, “The declarations that appear in the citations sent to consumers as part of the Redflex-Victorville red light automated traffic enforcement system, are subscribed under ‘information and belief. An affidavit based on “information and belief” is hearsay and must be disregarded, and it is “unavailing for any purpose” whatsoever. Matters alleged on ‘information and belief’ do ‘not serve to establish the facts … because an affidavit which is to be used as evidence must be positive, direct and not based upon hearsay.’ A ruling ‘of the court is to be based upon acts which may be presented to it, and not upon the belief of the affiant.’ Such allegations on ‘information and belief’ furnish… ‘no proof of the facts stated ….’”
The attorney representing the city of Victorville, Riverside-based Harvey Wimer III, seized upon Conaway’s citation of the U.S. Constitution and US Code, and asserted the matter should be removed to federal court since it deals with a federal law. The law firm for Redflex, Los Angeles-based Davis Wright Tremaine, supported having the matter removed to the federal system as well, since its client’s American headquarters are located in Arizona and Delaware and that the federal venue  is fitting since most of the plaintiffs in the class action suit are from the Victorville area.
The city has now made a motion in U.S. District Court to have the lawsuit dismissed. That motion will be heard on May 21.

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