10/11/2012California Court of Appeal Shuts Down Effort to Block Anti-Camera Vote
Red light camera company will have to pay legal bills of anti-camera initiative supporters in Murrieta, California.
California's second highest court on Tuesday put to rest the efforts of a traffic camera company to block a vote on red light cameras in Murrieta. Following up on its September ruling (view decision), the appellate court sent a formal order to Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia setting aside his August 3 ruling (view ruling) that favored the interests of the photo ticketing firm. The losing side will now have to pay the legal bills of red light camera opponents. Murrieta resident Diana Serafin, the volunteer who spearheaded the effort to gather signatures for the initiative, wonders how the only plaintiff named in the lawsuit, Murrieta camera supporter Steve Flynn, is going to come up with the money.
"This is going to expose who's behind it," Serafin told TheNewspaper. "Steve Flynn doesn't have it. He's going to say 'Hey, ATS, you guys better cough this up.'"
Murrieta's traffic camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), will only say it is not a party to the lawsuit. Flynn won't say who is paying the bills for the pricey Sacramento elections law firm of Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk LLP which made the argument that the initiative should be yanked from the ballot. Serafin's case was taken up by the Pacific Justice Institute, which stepped in to defend the initiative process when she asked for help.
"This suit threatens California's Constitution and the bedrock principle that the people not government hold all political power," attorney Peter Lepiscopo said in July when he agreed to represent Serafin. "The initiative process has been a check on government power for more than a century. This case is a clear and present danger to that power."
Serafin has been busy making her case to fellow residents in the weeks leading up to the election. So far, she has put out over 400 yard signs and continues to go door-to-door to speak to residents directly. Her most recent tally of contacts with 50 voters resulted in 42 saying they would vote to ban cameras, three saying "absolutely not," and 5 saying they were undecided or unaware the issue was on the ballot. Serafin is confident Murrieta will become the nation's twenty-third city to outlaw automated ticketing machines (view list).
"With fingers crossed, I think it's going to pass -- and it's going to pass with a super majority," Serafin said. "I'm not taking any chances."
Should local officials attempt to invalidate the election, as Houston unsuccessfully attempted to do last year, activists are prepared to respond.
"I'm not backing down," Serafin said. "We'll recall our city council if we have to, to stand up for the people."