Judge Makes Chicago Challenge to Traffic Tickets a Class Action

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A Chicago judge approved class-action status yesterday for a lawsuit over the city’s failure to give adequate notice to red light camera and speed camera violators, substantially increasing the city’s potential liability, the Chicago Tribune reports. The lawsuit contends that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration broke state law when it shortened the time that ticket holders had to contest their violations or pay their fines. The decision by Judge Kathleen Kennedy means as many as 1.5 million motorists could have a stake in the outcome, not just the two plaintiffs who were named when the lawsuit was filed. In September, the Emanuel administration moved to pass an ordinance that gives those ticket holders affected by the errors a second chance to challenge their tickets retroactively, in some cases years after they had already paid their fines and late fees.

Lawyers for the Emanuel administration argue that accelerating the time people have to pay fines does not change the fact they were speeding or running a red light. Plaintiffs’ attorney Jacie Zolna contends that the tickets themselves are fatally flawed because the administration violated due process and should not be allowed a do-over. He is suing to recover all fines and late fees associated with those tickets. Kennedy’s ruling was the latest blow in a lucrative automated camera enforcement program mired in corruption and mismanagement since it began almost 15 years ago. This month, the former CEO of Chicago’s original camera vendor — Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. — is set to be sentenced for her role in a decadelong $2 million conspiracy to bribe a City Hall insider for every new red light camera that went up throughout the city.

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