Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Appeals Court Orders ‘Red Light Camera’ Measure Restored to Murietta’s November Ballot
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Voters in the City of Murietta, in Riverside County, will be able to vote Nov. 6 on a proposition to ban use of red light cameras locally, under an action yesterday by the Fourth District Court of Appeal, countermanding a Superior Court order.
Div. Two of the Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a peremptory writ of mandate in the first instance directing the Riverside Superior Court to scrap a writ it issued Aug. 6 barring the measure from the ballot.
Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia took that action on the ground that traffic laws were of statewide concern and local enactments were foreclosed.
Acting Presiding Justice Art McKinster wrote the opinion. It did not specify the nature of the ballot measure in issue.
The jurist quoted the California Supreme Court as saying that “it is usually more appropriate to review constitutional and other challenges to ballot propositions or initiative measures after an election rather than to disrupt the electoral process by preventing the exercise of the people’s franchise, in the absence of some clear showing of invalidity.”
Decision Termed ‘Unwise’
“[I]t was not improper for the trial court to grant preelection review of this challenge, but we must conclude that it was unwise.”
He acknowledged that courts of appeal have sometimes yanked measures from ballots, but noted that “these rulings occurred somewhat earlier in the ballot process.”
McKinister pointed out that the man who sued to have the proposal excised from the ballot “delayed several months before bringing a legal action.”
The action was filed June 5 by Steve Flynn, a former chair of the Public Safety and Traffic Commission.
The “delay, combined with the fact that the measure can be challenged after the election if it is approved, are decisive factors in persuading this court to order that the proposal remain on the ballot,” McKinister wrote.
“In addition, the trial court may not have addressed all issues arising from this matter, including the effect of the severability clause,” he also said. “Even if the severability clause is ultimately determined not to have any impact on the overall validity of the initiative, the failure to address the issue demonstrates that it was ill-advised for the trial court to entertain the challenge.”
The appeals court acted in response to a writ petition filed by Diana Serafin, a proponent of the camera ban, and others.
The opinion in the case, Serafin v. Superior Court, E056868, was not certified for publication.
A bill is presently on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown which would restrict use of red light cameras to satisfying safety concerns, rather than to raise revenues from tickets. Last year, he vetoed a similar bill.
The bill would specify that photos taken by the cameras would not be hearsay evidence. There are conflicting court decisions on the admissibility of the photos.
In the City of Los Angeles, the Police Commission voted on March 27 to terminate the contract with the company that operates the cameras, ending the program as of April 1. On July 25, the Los Angeles City Council voted to shut down the program.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company