Already facing litigation over its red light cameras, a new lawsuit has now targeted the city of Chicago’s use of speed cameras along a stretch of Irving Park Road at Challenger Park.
In a complaint filed Dec. 19 in Cook County Circuit Court, Benjamin Levine, through the firm of Roth Fioretti LLC, sued the city for its speed camera zone near Graceland Cemetery, less than a mile north of Wrigley Field.
According to the complaint, state law only allows speed cameras in dedicated safety zones, which includes streets within an eighth of a mile of schools or parks. Levine said the state statute and city ordinance explicitly state safe zones are only allowed near parks if a “park district” owns the park associated with the camera and said the camera at 1142 W. Irving Park Road is illegal because the city — not the Chicago Park District — owns Challenger Park.
The camera in question, per the complaint, “is routinely in the top five to seven ticket generating speed cameras in the city,” responsible for “well in excess of 120,000 violation notices” resulting in “millions of dollars” in fines.
“The (state) code and the (city) ordinance make crystal clear that to tie a speed camera to the location of a park, a ‘park district’ must own that park,” the complaint said, noting the Chicago Park District is a separate legal entity from the city.
Challenger Park, at 1100 W. Irving Park Road, is a narrow north-south strip bordered by West Irving Park on the south and West Montrose Avenue on the north, CTA tracks to the east and Graceland Cemetery to the west. The strip was Seminary Avenue before that road was vacated.
According to the complaint, the city installed the speed camera in question on Dec. 6, 2013, and has operated continuously for more than four years. In a 2014 report on speed cameras that weren’t properly located, CBS-2 News Chicago said the Challenger Park camera in its first full year generated 38,651 violation notices, fifth-most in the city. The number dropped to 28,764 in 2015, good for seventh place, and was down to 26,786 in 2016.
Levine said he wasn’t aware of the camera’s illegal location when he paid his fine and maintains he would have challenged or ignored the ticket had he known. He said speed camera violation notices “are coercive and are paid under duress” because they threaten use of a collections agency “if administrative remedies are exhausted.”
The class would include any driver who was issued a ticket from the Challenger Park camera.
In addition to class certification and a jury trial, Levine wants the court to declare the camera unconstitutional, as well as in violation of the city ordinance, and to issue injunctions prohibiting the city from issuing or enforcing violations it generates. The complaint also includes allegations of unjust enrichment and seeks damages, with interest, as well as compensation for the costs of bringing the action.
Levine’s complaint came just days after attorney Patrick Keating, of the firm of Roberts McGivney Zagotta LLC, of Chicago, filed a Dec. 11 motion on behalf of a woman identified as Maureen P. Sullivan objecting to the city’s proposed $38 million settlement designed to end one of the class action lawsuits faced it faces over its controversy-plagued red light camera traffic enforcement program.
A separate class action lawsuit, led by Keating and his firm, asks the courts to declare the city’s red light camera program illegal from its inception. That case is awaiting arguments before the Illinois First District Appellate Court, after a Cook County judge had dismissed it.