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Chicago Speed Cameras: Class-Action Lawsuit Filed After City Council Approves Mayor's Plan

Posted: 04/20/2012 10:57 am Updated: 04/20/2012 1:05 pm

Chicago Speed Cameras Lawsuit

Though the Chicago City Council on Wednesday voted to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel's speed camera red-light ticketing plan, a class-action lawsuit filed almost simultaneously the same day is aiming to stop the program dead in its tracks.

Fox Chicago reports that the lawsuit argues that the program is "illegal." The action was filed by two motorists previously ticketed after they were caught blowing through red lights on camera.

"These fines were collected without legal authority and, under principles of equity, the city has no right to retain them in good conscience," the lawsuit reads, according to Fox. The lawsuit further claims that Chicago never had the authority to establish the red-light cameras already installed in the city as of 2003. Rather, it only had such authority since 2006, when the Illinois state legislature OKed the plan.

(Scroll down to watch a report on the lawsuit.)

The Expired Meter points out that this is not the first lawsuit filed against Chicago's red-light cameras. A similar suit was filed in 2010 and was dismissed by a Cook County Circuit Court judge. An appeal to that judgement is pending.

Minneapolis previously lost a similar lawsuit and was forced to refund drivers after a court found that the city had instituted a red-light camera program before the state had authorized it to do so, The Expired Meter reports.

Meanwhile, as for the newly-approved plan for the city to install speed cameras in safety zones located within 1/8 mile of parks and schools throughout the city -- a plan approved by a vote of 33-14 by the City Council -- the city is assuring Chicago drivers that the cameras won't be in action until the end of the year, after the city tries out the technology in a field test, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The tickets facing those caught speeding by the new cameras are expected to range between $35 and $100, depending on how many miles over the speed limit a motorist is recorded driving. Near schools, the cameras will operate between 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays. Near parks, the cameras will operate only when the park is open. The city will only issue warnings to motorists within the first 30 days after a new camera is installed.

Though the ordinance approved by City Council has authorized a maximum of 300 speed camera locations citywide, Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said Thursday that it's doubtful that more than 50 will be installed in Chicago next year, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Some Chicago aldermen had pushed back against Emanuel's speed camera plan, asking Emanuel to limit the hours the cameras operate and cut their numbers amid overwhelming public disapproval for the plan and questions concerning the methodology of the public safety studies the mayor cited in his pitching the plan.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said Wednesday that his and other City Hall opponents' constituents felt the camera program was "a money grab," rather than being about public safety, ABC Chicago reports.

Emanuel and supporters of the plan have countered that the goal has long been to reduce accidents and the mayor has promised that revenue will be directed towards school programming, not to help balance the city's massive deficit.

"There is nothing more important to the future of Chicago than the safety of our children," the mayor said in a statement [PDF] after the City Council approved the plan. "Our city will be safer as a result, and we’ll be in better position to achieve the quality of life that we are seeking for all Chicagoans, and help our residents and their children realize their dreams."

WATCH a report on the speed camera lawsuit:

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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |