Success of Herrera’s Pre-Trial Motion That Plaintiffs Were Ineligible for Refunds of Criminal Penalties Through Civil Lawsuits Seals Cases’ Fate for Plaintiffs’ Lawyers
SAN DIEGO (Feb. 22, 2006) — Lawyers for plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of red light camera programs in the City and County of San Francisco and the City of San Diego agreed in San Diego Superior Court this morning to dismiss their claims against both government defendants. The agreement effectively concludes a two-and-a-half year attempt to recover millions of dollars in fines, traffic school fees, and attorneys’ fees for motorists cited for running red lights as a result of the automated enforcement systems since 1996, and ends a challenge that called into question the legality of similar programs in more than a dozen other California cities.
Today’s agreement to dismiss comes on the heels of a pre-trial ruling from the court last week, which granted City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s motion in limine that plaintiffs were ineligible for refunds of criminal penalties through civil lawsuits, unless the individual infractions were first vacated through the criminal justice system. Though the court was not slated to hear the cases on the merits until next week, San Francisco’s procedural victory essentially removed any financial value that plaintiffs and their attorneys could have derived from any ruling the court could have rendered on the legality of the programs. The agreement to dismiss is expected to be formally approved by clients on both sides, enabling the court to enter its final order of dismissal.
“We’re very pleased that plaintiffs have agreed to dismiss their cases-not merely because it saves taxpayer dollars, but because it ensures the continued viability of programs that are saving lives throughout California,” said Herrera. “San Francisco’s red light camera program has been very successful in reducing an illegal and extremely dangerous practice. I’m gratified that San Franciscans and millions of other Californians will continue to benefit from tough enforcement of our traffic laws and safer streets.”
In lawsuits that were originally filed in 2003, attorneys for the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of red light photo enforcement systems primarily because they involved payments to private, for-profit contractors based on the number of citations paid (San Francisco no longer compensates its contractor on such a per-citation basis).
In addition to fine and traffic school fee restitution and attorneys’ fees, the plaintiffs also sought a declaration from the court that the program was unconstitutional, and that defendants be enjoined from continuing to operate the automated enforcement programs. Not included in today’s dismissal are private-sector defendants in the litigation that operate the systems for various local governments in California, including Lockheed Martin, IMS, Corp., ACS State and Local Solutions, Inc., Affiliated Computer Services, Inc., and Del Mar Ventures LLC (formerly known as U.S. Public Technologies LLC).
The cases are titled: Buys v. City and County of San Francisco; Glickman v. City of San Diego, Jerrold Cook v. Lockheed Martin, IMS, Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding No. 4005.