12/22/2017Oregon: Federal Judge Sides With Anti-Camera Engineer
Federal judge will decide how to punish Oregon Engineering Board for violating free speech rights of a red light camera critic.
Oregon officials admittedly violated the free speech rights of a man who criticized the use of red light cameras. A federal magistrate judge last week agreed with Mats Jarlstrom, an engineer who was fined and ordered to be silent by the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering because he made his criticisms without holding a state license.
The state attorney general admits the board's conduct was illegal and is offering to refund the $500 fine. That is not good enough for Jarlstrom, who seeks to have the law that allowed the fine to be levied in the first place to be struck down as unconstitutional. The state insisted that they had satisfied Jarlstrom fully by refunding the fine, but Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman did not agree.
"At this stage in the proceedings... the court cannot determine... whether [the state's] proposed judgment provides [Jarlstrom] the fullest relief to which he is entitled as a matter of law," she ruled on Thursday. "Accordingly, the court denies [the state's] motion for entry of judgment."
The state board went after Jarlstrom in January, outraged that he suggested in emails to public officials that his background in engineering led him to believe that yellow signal times are dangerously short at Beaverton intersections when cars are making left turns. Jarlstrom has substantial backing for that position. Alexei Maradudin, an original author of the ITE yellow signal timing formula first developed in 1959, agrees that his engineering work has been misinterpreted to set yellows that are too low for such turns (view letter).
Jarlstrom's attorney, Samuel B. Gedge, believes the state's proposed settlement is woefully inadequate.
"In our adversarial system, it is the plaintiff -- not the defendant -- who decides whether to settle for something less than full relief," Gedge wrote. "In the board's view, Mats can speak freely about traffic lights and call himself an 'engineer' -- unless the board decides he is subject to punishment for communicating in the 'context' of professional or commercial speech."
Gedge insists this arbitrary restriction is unconstitutional. Judge Beckerman is not sure at this point whether Jarlstrom's case can be used to stop the board from fining individuals who have called themselves engineers in voter pamphlets, court testimony and political advertisements. So the case will continue, as Jarlstrom requested.
A status conference on the case has been scheduled for January 3. A copy of the opinion is available in a PDF file at the source link below.