Anyone who received a red light or speeding camera ticket from the city of Chicago before May 2015 could be added to a class action lawsuit demanding the city void many red light and speed camera tickets because City Hall allegedly broke its own rules in the way it notified the people who had been ticketed.
On Nov. 2, Cook County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Kennedy signed off on a request to greatly expand the scope and reach of the litigation, agreeing to make the lawsuit a class action potentially involving thousands of people who had allegedly been caught speeding or running a red light by the city’s network of automated traffic enforcement cameras.
The request for class action status had been made by attorneys Myron Cherry and Jacie Zolna, of the Chicago firm of Myron Cherry & Associates. The lawyers had filed suit in 2015 on behalf of three named plaintiffs who had alleged purported procedural violations by the city in issuing the tickets and notifying ticketed people should invalidate the tickets.
The lawsuit asserted the city’s practices in enforcing the red light and speed camera tickets violated the Illinois Constitution, state vehicular laws and the city’s own ordinance establishing the camera traffic enforcement programs. The lawsuit also alleged the city’s tickets issued under the automated enforcement program should be voided and the city made to pay damages for collecting fees and fines to which it should not have been entitled.
Specifically, the lawsuit argued the city did not properly list the make of the vehicle photographed during the alleged red light and speeding violations; the city overstepped its home rule powers, which should have been limited by the Illinois Vehicle Code; and the city failed to send a second notice of violation, as required by its ordinances, to give those receiving the tickets sufficient chance to contest them in court, before the city began assessing additional fees and fines for the unpaid tickets.
City Hall had asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
However, in February 2016, Kennedy came down on the side of the plaintiffs in the case, saying the city likely did violate its ordinance in sending just one violation notice, when the ordinance specified a second notice “shall” be sent. That means the city may have violated the plaintiffs’ rights to due process, and the tickets could be voided.
“Here, plaintiffs’ receipt of a single violation notice does not mean that due process was satisfied when the ordinance mandates that two notices be sent to a non-responder before a determination of liability,” Kennedy wrote in February.
The judge at that time put off a decision on whether the plaintiffs’ case could be expanded to a class action, potentially including nearly anyone who had received just one notice of a ticket under the red light and speed camera programs.
The judge established four classes of potential plaintiffs, including those who received red light or speed camera tickets before May 17, 2015; those who paid fines or penalties, to the city as a result of receiving those tickets before May 17, 2015; and anyone who paid late fees under the programs between July 1, 2012, and May 9, 2015.
Cherry and Zolna were designated as class counsel to represent the interest of the class, as well as named plaintiffs Themasha Simpson, Delyn McKenzie-Lopez and Erica Lieschke.