The Truth About Cars » Law and Order The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:01:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Law and Order Speed, And The Cop Might Get A Free Pizza Sat, 31 Mar 2012 14:44:39 +0000

Be careful if you take I84, one of Connecticut’s main drags. You could turn into collateral damage of a war between feuding State Police troops. There might be a pizza prize on your head.

A memo, written by the commander of Troop I in Bethany, created an uproar in Connecticut and beyond. Lt. Anthony Schirillo III, Troop I’s commander, issued an “all hands on deck” email for Friday, says the Connecticut Post. “We have to issue 60 infractions/misdemeanors each shift for a total of 180 infractions, in order to outperform Troop F and Troop G,”  Schirillo wrote.

Schirillo told his men that Troop F had written 301 tickets, Troop G had outdone them with 345 tickets:

“We can do better. I am asking that everyone, myself included, contribute to this effort. Based on the number of on-duty personnel, 60 infractions a shift would proportionately put us above both troops. Note, if we happen to issue 350 tickets in one day that would be stellar.”

Putting even more fire under his men, Schirillo offered, in a follow-up email, pizza to the trooper writing the most tickets.

Matthew Andrews, president of the Connecticut State Police Union, said state law prohibits quotas:

“Our members won’t comply with an illegal order or a ticket quota and will always use discretion as allowed by our department policy and the law. This wasn’t just specifically Troop I. It’s going on around the state that there’s an increased desire to issue more tickets and we don’t think it’s proper. “

Lt. J. Paul Vance, spokesman for the state’s Division of State Police, played down the incident, saying that Schirillo was merely cheerleading:

“There’s no way there were any required quotas. Lt. Schirillo was saying, `Let’s go and work and give a little bit more, work a little bit harder, there are speeders out there.’ It was motivational and maybe he needed a little polish on it.”

Schirillo lists the FBI National Academy and the University of Connecticut as places where he received education. He is Chairman of the Homeland Security Region 1 Steering Committee and the Emergency Management Director of the Town of Stratford. He seems to be polished enough.




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The Case For “California Stops” Thu, 24 Jun 2010 14:58:16 +0000

What do you call it when you roll through a stop sign with only a perfunctory tap on the brakes? Here in Oregon, the name “California stop” seems to have stuck. But it turns out that Oregon’s petty provincial put-down may just be a backhanded compliment. According to Gary Lauder, stop signs suck and should be replaced, if not ignored. And you know what? He’s got a hell of a point. Check out his recent presentation from the TED conference, and contemplate the possibilities of a post-stop sign world.

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Oregon Appeals Court Throws Out DUI Eye Test Thu, 24 Jun 2010 14:21:55 +0000
The Oregon Court of Appeals earlier this month threw out a commonly performed roadside sobriety test as unscientific. A divided three-judge panel found the accuracy of vertical gaze nystagmus in establishing drunkenness remained unproven in the eyes of the court.

Curtis Wendell Bevan had passed through a laser speed trap in Umatilla County at an alleged 64 MPH in a 45 zone. Officer Gutierrez followed Bevan briefly and did not note any signs of erratic driving before pulling him over. Gutierrez did smell alcohol on Bevan’s breath, and Bevan admitted drinking two beers — the empty cans were still in the car. On this basis, Gutierrez administered a series of field sobriety tests.

Bevan failed the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test where he was asked to follow a penlight with his eyes as the light moved from side to side. When the eyes jerk involuntarily, that motion is known as “nystagmus” and is caused, according to Gutierrez, when an individual has consumed an excessive amount of alcohol or narcotics. Bevan “maintained his balance perfectly” on the one-leg-stand test and scored four out of eight on the walk-and-turn-test (higher than two is a failure). Gutierrez explained a final sobriety test during lower court proceedings.

“We did the vertical gaze nystagmus [VGN test], which instead of going side to side, I went up and down twice, and nystagmus was present in his eyes,” Gutierrez explained.

Gutierrez arrested Bevan, who then refused to take a breath test. Two trained witnesses who interacted with Bevan during his arrest testified that, in their professional opinion, Bevan was not drunk and that Gutierrez had a bad attitude toward Bevan. Nonetheless, based on the vertical nystagmus test being presented as evidence as reliable as the horizontal nystagmus test, the jury convicted Bevan. The appeals court reversed.

“We reject the state’s argument that the scientific principle underlying the VGN test has already been accepted by this state’s appellate courts,” Judge Darleen Ortega wrote for the majority. “Here, the scientific proposition underlying the evidence at issue is that there is a causal relationship between the consumption of alcohol in quantities greater than usual for the individual consumer and the type of nystagmus measured by the VGN test — that is, jerking when the eyes move up and down. That proposition may be valid (although the record here does not establish its validity); however, it is not the same proposition that underlies the HGN test, nor is it a logical consequence of the scientific presumption underlying the HGN test.”

Because the evidence was improperly admitted, the court found no alternative but to assume that this added evidence may have been enough to sway the jury toward a guilty verdict.

“Although there was other evidence that defendant was under the influence and Gutierrez’s testimony about the VGN test was a relatively brief part of the evidence offered at trial, the prosecutor referred to the VGN evidence in the opening statement and closing argument, thus emphasizing the evidence for the jury’s consideration,” Ortega wrote. “Two of the jurors apparently voted against a guilty verdict based on a record that included the erroneously admitted testimony about the VGN test. Under the circumstances, we cannot say that there is little likelihood that the erroneous admission of the VGN evidence affected the jury’s verdict.”

A copy of the decision is available at the source link below.

Source: Oregon v. Bevan (Court of Appeals, State of Oregon, 6/5/2010)]

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Ask The Best And Brightest: Driving At Age 16? Wed, 23 Jun 2010 20:39:32 +0000

Fewer 16-year-olds are registering for driver’s licenses in Illinois, according to Chicago Breaking News… but why?

[In 2006] Illinois lawmakers doubled the number of hours — to 50 from 25 — of adult-supervised driving required before a driver with a learner’s permit could get a license. The next year, the number of 16-year-olds with licenses dropped by nearly 5 percent — to 74,675 from 78,250 — even though the state’s teen population increased.

Then, on Jan. 1, 2008, Illinois imposed a sweeping overhaul of teen driving laws, the heart of which tripled the length of time — to 9 months from 3 months — a teen driver must possess a learner’s permit before acquiring a license. That year, the number of 16-year-olds with licenses dropped again, this time by 17 percent, to 61,862.

The decrease is continuing. The Illinois secretary of state’s office estimates that fewer than 60,000 driver’s licenses were issued to 16-year-olds in 2009.

The usual economy and internet-based explanations are trotted out, but it seems that mandating supervised driving hours keeps kids out of cars. And though that’s good news for Illinois drivers, it’s certainly not a trend that the auto industry wants to see followed. After all, safety is a box on an option list, not something that reduces demand for cars, right? On the other hand, just because kids aren’t registering for driver’s licenses, doesn’t mean they’re not driving. Should we do away with mandatory supervision to drive the market for cars, or should supervised hours or a more thorough form of mandatory training be instituted? Or, should the legal driving age simply be moved up to 18? Better yet, forget the politics: do you let your 16 year-old drive, and if so how do you prepare them?

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Michigan: Man With 0.00 BAC Sues Over DUI Charge Wed, 23 Jun 2010 17:30:20 +0000

Motorist Paul Miller filed a federal lawsuit against Sanilac County, Michigan sheriff’s department after he was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) despite being completely sober. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit earlier this month ruled that his case should be tried by a jury.

On February 19, 2006, Miller had been driving home from a demolition derby at around midnight on a cold, icy evening. Miller drove through a stop sign, unable to stop because of the slick road conditions, as Deputy Sheriff Jim Wagester watched. Wagester pulled Miller over claiming that he had been driving 60 MPH without a seatbelt, that he failed to immediately pull over, that his eyes were “glassy” and that he “detect[ed] a slight odor of alcohol coming from [Miller's] breath.” Miller said that Wagester fabricated the charges.

After learning that Miller had been arrested once before for DUI, Wagester administered five standard field sobriety tests in the freezing weather, insisting that Miller failed four of them. Miller refused a breathalyzer test, saying he only trusted the accuracy of blood tests. Wagester responded by slamming Miller against his patrol car, handcuffing him and driving him to a hospital for the blood test. Wagester charged miller with: failure to use a seatbelt, no proof of registration, no proof of insurance, reckless driving, refusal to submit to a breath test, minor in possession, and 0.02 percent blood-alcohol-no-tolerance-law violation.

The lab eventually reported that Miller’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.00 and that he tested negative for narcotics. Although police dropped the charges, Miller sued for excessive force, false arrest and malicious prosecution.

The court of appeals threw out the malicious prosecution charge as they related to the civil infractions like failure to wear a seatbelt and refusing a breath test. Only criminal charges like DUI could be considered malicious prosecution, so the appeals court found that a jury should decide whether Wagester had probable cause to arrest to determine whether the criminal prosecution was malicious.

“The fact that Miller’s blood alcohol was found to be 0.00 percent casts doubt on Deputy Wagester’s claims that Miller smelled of alcohol and failed the field sobriety tests,” Judge Gilbert S Merritt Jr wrote for the majority. “Although Wagester’s claims, if believed, would constitute probable cause to arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, a jury could reasonably conclude, in light of the 0.00 percent blood alcohol result and Miller’s testimony, that Wagester was being untruthful generally about his observations and did not have probable cause to believe Miller was drinking. In light of the conflict in the evidence, the jury could conclude that Wagester was lying.”

The court also questioned the reckless driving charge because the icy conditions represented a mitigating circumstance. Because the reckless driving charge requires a showing of “wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property” the icy conditions create a factual question for the jury. The court found absolutely no evidence for Wagester’s filing of the minor in possession charge.

The court dismissed the claims against the county government and some of the excessive force claims but upheld Miller’s remaining points as fit for being decided by a jury.

View a copy of the decision in a 75k PDF file.

Source: PDF File Miller v. Sanilac County (US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 6/4/2010)


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Ohio: Legislature Considers Ban On “Visual Guess” Speeding Tickets Tue, 15 Jun 2010 13:29:28 +0000

A bipartisan effort to overturn a controversial Ohio Supreme Court ruling garnered the support of twelve of the state Senate’s thirty-three members in just four days. Senators Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) and Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) jointly introduced legislation on Thursday that would forbid police from issuing speeding tickets based solely on the officer’s best speed guess.

The bill is designed to chastise the high court for its controversial June 3 ruling that held any police officer could be certified as an expert in visual speed estimation. Once certified, the word of such and officer would be taken as proof beyond a reasonable doubt of any speeding violation alleged. As a result, police could hang up their expensive radar and laser units as no longer needed (view decision). Driver’s rights groups, including the National Motorists Association, blasted the ruling.

“The NMA has been flooded with email traffic expressing alarm and concern about the implications of courts giving judicial notice to what is, at best, a questionable method of determining how fast a vehicle is going,” NMA Executive Director Gary Biller wrote.

Biller explained that there is no hard scientific evidence to back up the accuracy of the methods used by police and that the typical certification involves little more than a few hours of training. Members of the state Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle agreed that the legislation should be overturned.

“When Ohio motorists are pulled over for speeding there should be measurable proof rather than someone’s estimate,” Senate Minority Leader Cafaro said in a statement. “This legislation clarifies the Ohio Revised Code to require verifiable evidence to issue speeding tickets.”

The proposed measure would take re-write the law so that it is clear that the legislature never intended tickets to be issued based on no more than an officer’s best guess.

“No person shall be arrested, charged, or convicted of a violation of any provision of [the speeding statute] based on a peace officer’s unaided visual estimation of the speed of a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar,” Senate Bill 280 states.

The legislation referral to a committee for further consideration. A copy of the bill is available in a 10k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 280 (Ohio General Assembly, 6/10/2010)


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California: Court, Grand Jury Bash San Mateo Red Light Cameras Thu, 10 Jun 2010 14:07:19 +0000

Red light cameras in San Mateo County, California received a one-two punch as an appellate court and a grand jury called into question the way red light cameras operate in the county. On Monday, the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury released a report suggesting that the eight cities within the county that use photo enforcement are preoccupied with revenue. The report found that although cities claimed their sole interest was safety, officials failed to furnish reliable evidence to back up the assertion.

“Based on interviews and responses to survey questions, the reporting of accident statistics is not being used as a measure of the effectiveness of red light cameras,” the report stated. “The primary emphasis appears to be on the number of citations issued. Based on the data provided by the cities, there was no overall trend indicating a noticeable change in accident rates before and after installation of red light cameras.”

The report found no doubt in the financial aspects of the program that generated $13,802,808 worth of tickets last year. On average, Daly City saw $294,360 worth of tickets per month; Menlo Park saw $280,980; Millbrae saw $152,978; Redwood City saw $226,122; San Carlos saw $23,638 and San Mateo saw $261,802. The number in San Carlos is particularly low because the duration of the yellow light has been increased.

“Recently, the City of San Carlos extended the yellow light time to comply with state standards and found that the number of citations fell dramatically,” the report explained. “As a result the revenue from red light citations could no longer cover the associated costs.”

The grand jury recommended that city councils hold an annual meeting to evaluate whether accident rates had dropped at photo-enforced intersections and that cameras should be removed if they are shown to be ineffective (PDF File view grand jury report, 1mb PDF file). The county’s problems were compounded on May 20 when the Appellate Division of the county’s superior court overturned a red light camera ticket because the photographic evidence was ruled insufficient.

A red light camera had accused motorist Noriko Durney of running a red light in Millbrae. Her husband Edward, a lawyer, filed an appeal after losing at the trial court level. Millbrae Police Officer Jim Aboud testified in court about the camera, claiming he was the official custodian of records for American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the for-profit company that is in charge of the city’s automated ticketing program. Aboud had taken “some type of training session” from ATS and obtained a “certificate of completion” on May 15, 2008. Appellate Judge H. James Ellis found this unimpressive.

“To be fair, it appears that Officer Aboud received a packet of materials from American Traffic Solutions and then simply presented testimony based upon the content of the materials he received,” Ellis wrote. “Simply stated, Officer Aboud presented the information provided through officials of American Traffic Solutions as if it was true and correct, without any basis for doing so.”

Edward Durney objected to the ATS photographs on the grounds that they failed to meet the requirements of the evidence code. Judge Ellis agreed.

“The appellant was denied the right to effectively cross examine anyone relating to the specifics of the system and/or its operational status,” Ellis concluded. “Without the appropriate foundation, admission of Exhibits 1 through 10 was erroneous. The judgment is reversed with directions that the charges be dismissed.”

On May 21, the appellate division in Orange County issued a decision coming to the same conclusion as the San Mateo court (read opinion). Edward Durney took this as a sign that red light cameras could be in serious trouble throughout the state.

“When real lawyers who know the rules of evidence take these cases to appeals courts who care about the rules, the weaknesses get probed and skewered,” Durney told TheNewspaper. “It looks like the whole system may be on the verge of tumbling down.”

A copy of the court case is available in a 600k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File California v. Durney (San Mateo County, California Superior Court, 5/20/2010)


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California: Appellate Decision Strikes Down Red Light Camera Evidence Wed, 09 Jun 2010 14:25:51 +0000

Appellate courts in California are becoming increasingly upset at the conduct of cities and photo enforcement vendors. On May 21, a three-judge panel of the California Superior Court, Appellate Division, in Orange County tossed out a red light camera citation in the city of Santa Ana in a way that calls into question the legitimacy of the way red light camera trials are conducted statewide. Previously, a string of brief, unpublished decisions struck at illegal contracts, insufficient notice and other deficiencies. This time, however, the appellate division produced a ten-page ruling and certified it for publication, setting a precedent that applies to the county’s three million residents.

“This appeal involves an issue far too often presented to this court, namely the admissibility of evidence and the statutory compliance with the procedures employed by several municipalities in this county in what have come to be known as ‘photo enforcement’ citations,” the unanimous ruling stated.

At trial, attorney R. Allen Baylis objected to the admission of the red light camera photographs because the city had failed to lay a proper foundation for the evidence. The court agreed.

“The photographs contain hearsay evidence concerning the matters depicted in the photograph including the date, time and other information,” the ruling summarized. “The person who entered that relevant information into the camera-computer system did not testify. The person who entered that information was not subject to being cross-examined on the underlying source of that information. The person or persons who maintain the system did not testify. No one with personal knowledge testified about how often the system is maintained. No one with personal knowledge testified about how often the date and time are verified or corrected. The custodian of records for the company that contracts with the city to maintain, monitor, store and disperse these photographs did not testify. The person with direct knowledge of the workings of the camera-computer system did not testify.”

Santa Ana Police Officer Alan Berg testified in the lower court case, but the appeals panel found his direct knowledge limited.

“This witness testified that sometime in the distant past, he attended a training session where he was instructed on the overall working of the system at the time of the training,” the ruling stated. “Here the officer could not establish the time in question, the method of retrieval of the photographs or that any of the photographs or the videotape was a reasonable representation of what it is alleged to portray…. Here, Officer Berg did not qualify as the appropriate witness and did not have the necessary knowledge of underlying workings, maintenance or record keeping of Redflex Traffic System. The foundation for the introduction of the photographs and the underlying workings of the Redflex Traffic System was outside the personal knowledge of Officer Berg.”

Lawyers for the city of Santa Ana argued that the evidence should be admitted under the hearsay exemption for official government records. The court rejected this argument because the photographic records were created by a for-profit Australian company, not a state or local government agency.

“Here, the signator of the document, Exhibit #3, states they are employees of the ‘Redflex Traffic Systems,’” the ruling stated. “At no point does the signatory state that ‘Redflex Traffic Systems’ is a public entity or that they are otherwise employed by a public entity. Absent this critical foundation information, the document that they created cannot be and is not an ‘official record’ under Evidence Code section 1280.”

With the evidence inadmissible, the appellate panel found that “there is a total lack of evidence to support the vehicle code violation in question.” All charges were dismissed.

A copy of the ruling is available in a 600k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File California v. Khaled (Orange County, California Superior Court, 5/25/2010)


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NHTSA’s Complaint Database Leaks Private Information Like A Sieve Thu, 03 Jun 2010 23:34:47 +0000

Our Canadian pal carquestions took a look through NHTSA’s public complaint database, and found four examples of personal information that NHTSA should have redacted but didn’t. You kow, things like names, birth dates, social security numbers, addresses, VINs, and drivers license numbers. And he found those four after searching through “12 or 15″ of the 792,000 publicly-available NHTSA complaint cases. He’s calling on NHTSA to shut down public access to the database until it can get a handle on this problem. (The NHTSA listened.)

As much as we appreciate publicly-available data, we have to agree: NHTSA can’t allow social security numbers to be made publicly available on the internet without the knowledge or consent of the individual in question. Literally. It’s against the law. It’s time for NHTSA to join the 21st Century, and figure out how to protect motorists without revealing their most personal data to all and sundry. NHTSA’s privacy policy can be viewed here. NHTSA has a fairly sophisticated confidentiality protocol for its Early Warning Reporting database, which includes only information submitted by manufacturers. NHTSA has created a Privacy Impact Statement for data provided by the public and hosted on its Artemis database. Update: NHTSA has shut down access to the sensitive data.

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Toyota Loses Bid To Dismiss Hybrid Patent Lawsuit Fri, 28 May 2010 15:40:23 +0000

The long-simmering dispute over hybrid technology patents between Toyota and the Florida engineering firm Paice is rolling on, as Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that a judge from the U.S. International Trade Commission refused to dismiss the Paice suit. That suit builds on an earlier ruling requiring Toyota to pay Paice royalties on its Prius, Highlander Hybrid and RX400h sales (Toyota is challenging the amount of these royalties, ordered by a federal judge in Texas).

Paice is also seeking an ITC ban on US sales of these vehicles, and by refusing to dismiss Paice’s case, the ITC leaves the door open for such a ban. A hearing before the ITC is scheduled for July 19th. Needless to say, a US-market ban on sales of Toyota hybrids would be a huge setback for the Japanese automaker, eliminating its major technological advantage from the marketplace. Paice is also seeking a patent ruling against Ford for its use of hybrid technology.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Way To Go, Einstein Edition Thu, 27 May 2010 14:25:46 +0000

Albert Einstein may have once said that:

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new

But the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which owns the rights to Einstein’s likeness, had this to say about this GMC ad which appeared in People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue:

The tattooed, shirtless image of Dr. Einstein with his underpants on display is not consummate with and causes injury to (the university’s) carefully guarded rights in the image and likeness of the famous scientist, political activist, and humanitarian

According to the Detroit News, the University is suing GM “more than $75,000″ for the Leo Burnett-produced ad. GM spokesfolks insist the company purchased the right to use the Einstein image from a “reputable firm.”

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Utah Supreme Court Allows DUI Stop On Vague 911 Call Wed, 19 May 2010 14:03:54 +0000

Police can pull over a car that has committed no traffic violation based solely on vague accusations made in a 911 call, the Utah Supreme Court ruled Friday. The court considered the case of Jose Baltarcar Roybal whose live-in girlfriend, Annalee McCaine, called 911 after the pair had a fight August 8, 2005.

“The person that’s been living with me is an [expletive], and I want him the [expletive] out of here,” McCaine told the emergency operator. “He’s out putting stuff in his van… He’s going to be gone before you get here.”

McCaine said the pair had been drinking and that Roybal was about to drive off to the south. She provided a description of Roybal and his van. Ogden Police Sergeant Chat Ledford received the dispatch and spotted the van which he believed was driving “really, really slow” on 30th Street. Although Roybal had violated no traffic laws, Ledford believed the slow driving was a sure sign of intoxication and initiated a traffic stop.

The court considered at this point whether the officer’s actions were justified, as the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The question turned on whether the officer had reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity had taken place before he detained Roybal. A trial judge believed the Ledford acted correctly, but the court of appeals disagreed. A divided high court sided with Ledford.

“Looking to the totality of the circumstances in the instant case, we believe the 911 call was sufficient to provide the dispatcher with reasonable suspicion that Roybal was driving under the influence,” Justice Michael J. Wilkins wrote for the majority. “Irrespective of the fact that McCaine was Roybal’s live-in girlfriend, she was an identified citizen-informant who is presumptively reliable. Her personal involvement with Roybal, on its face, neither weakens, nor strengthens, that presumption.”

The majority concluded that the McCaine’s drunken call to 911 offered sufficient evidence that Roybal was also intoxicated and therefore could be stopped unless the officer saw evidence to the contrary.

“Once a reasonable suspicion is reached by the originator of the information — in this case, the dispatcher — the responding police officer is entitled to rely on the information unless the officer’s personal observations or interaction with the suspect present indications to the contrary,” Wilkins wrote. “That is to say, if the suspect’s actions are not inconsistent with the reasonable suspicion, the police officer may pursue the suspect and stop him or her immediately.”

Justice Ronald E. Nehring disagreed that the stop was justified because the police officer was not acting on solid information.

“I am troubled by the inference made by the majority,” Nehring explained. “The information from the dispatch established only that Mr. Roybal was in a white vehicle and that he had something to drink. People drinking together can individually consume various amounts of alcohol, or no alcohol at all, and it is erroneous to assume that the mere fact that people are together means they have had the same amount to drink. Our court of appeals has soundly rejected the implication that the state can impute unlawful activity to hyper-cautious driving.”

Nonetheless, the court reversed the appeals court decision and upheld Roybal’s conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). A copy of the ruling is available in a 32k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Utah v. Roybal (Supreme Court, State of Utah, 5/14/2010)


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Man To Walk Across Oregon For 55 MPH Speed Limit Awareness Fri, 14 May 2010 15:38:49 +0000
The national 55 MPH speed limit may have been repealed in 1995, but the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has refused to raise the limits on most freeways beyond 65. That makes Oregon the slowest state west of the Mississippi. Ted Carlin, 61, wants to call attention to this situation by making a 456-mile walk across the state — at a 3 MPH walking pace.

Carlin determined that ODOT policy made the roads more dangerous after he received a speeding ticket last year. He started setting his cruise control at 55 and noticed that far from making his trip safer, it disrupted the flow of traffic around him.

“I would soon have four to five cars stacked up behind me,” Carlin wrote on his blog chronicling his journey. “The cars would then attempt to pass in dangerous areas becoming much more of a hazard than a fast-moving automobile.”

Carlin kicked off his walk by starting with his feet in the Pacific Ocean in Newport on May 3. He plans to make his final stop in Ontario, the eastern edge of the state, by June 11. Carlin has been joined by supporters and friends, encouraging him along the way. Carlin’s wife drives a Chevy Impala, dubbed the “Sag Wagon,” carrying supplies and displaying a large “Say No to 55 MPH” message across the back.

“World wide I have seen drivers blink their lights at oncoming cars when they have seen a policeman up ahead monitoring speed limits,” Carlin wrote. “We elect officials to make laws to keep us safe and then we in turn circumvent the law to warn motorists we don’t even know to prevent these laws from being enforced.”

According to a 2004 ODOT survey, the 85th percentile speed on rural interstate highways is 71.1 MPH statewide. The bordering states of California and Washington post 70 MPH limits in comparable areas while Idaho posts 75 MPH. The majority of public comments submitted to ODOT urged increasing the limit to 70, but an ODOT panel unanimously decided to keep the lowered limits based on “the safety and environmental benefits.” Instead, the panel recommended increasing Oregon State Police speed patrols with orders to “reduce the current 10-15 MPH tolerance for speeding.” Prior to 1974, Oregon’s maximum speed limit was 75 MPH.


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West Virginia Supreme Court: DUI Does Not Require Proof Of Driving Mon, 10 May 2010 14:03:04 +0000

State officials can punish an individual for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), even if they are unable to prove the accused was ever behind the wheel, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The decision came in the case of Eric R. Cain who was found lying passed out on in front of his car on Route 19 by Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Cole at around 2:30am on June 2, 2007. The car had been safely parked and there was no key in the ignition.

Cole arrested Cain for DUI after a breath test estimated Cain’s blood alcohol level at .15. Six days later, the state filed an order revoking Cain’s driver’s license for a full year. In addition, Cain was ordered to pay a number of fees, including the costs an alcohol education program. Cain appealed the administrative order, and a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employee found him guilty. Cain appealed that judgment to circuit court Judge David Janes who overturned the DMV decision because the state could not prove Cain did not get drunk after he parked his car. The high court disagreed with Janes, asserting that state law allows police officers to impose certain forms of punishment based solely on reasonable suspicion that a crime may have taken place.

“All that is required to seek a license revocation under West Virginia Code Section 17C-5A-2 is that the arresting officer have ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ that the defendant committed the offense of DUI,” Justice Thomas E. McHugh wrote for the court. “Rather than requiring an arresting officer to witness a motor vehicle in the process of being driven, the statute requires only that the observations of the arresting officer establish a reasonable basis for concluding that the defendant had operated a motor vehicle upon a public street in an intoxicated state.”

Judge Janes had ruled that the arresting officer was obligated to identify specific facts and evidence that give rise to a reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed. Cain did not testify in his own defense at the administrative hearing, leaving no direct evidence that Cain had been driving while drunk. The supreme court ruled that the burden was properly on Cain to prove his innocence.

“The record is devoid of any factual basis for the arresting officer to believe that Mr. Cain consumed the alcohol he acknowledged drinking only after he parked the vehicle,” Justice McHugh wrote. “The applicable burden of proof at a license revocation proceeding is ‘proof by a preponderance of the evidence.’ By citing the fact that Mr. Cain did not testify or present evidence on his behalf, the hearing examiner was not wrongly shifting the burden of proof to the appellee. Instead, the examiner was merely recognizing that the only evidence before him was the testimonial evidence of the arresting officer and the documentary evidence provided through the DUI Information sheet.”

The supreme court reversed the circuit court ruling. A copy of the decision is available in a 70k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Cain v. West Virginia DMV (Supreme Court, State of West Virginia, 5/6/2010)


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Maryland Speed Camera Program Faces New Legal Challenge Fri, 30 Apr 2010 13:56:42 +0000

Vehicle owners ticketed by Maryland speed cameras may find relief after one motorist earlier this month discovered how to beat the system. Peggy Lucero began her legal battle after Affiliated Computer Services accused her of speeding in Gaithersburg on Saturday, November 21, 2009. She did not believe the citation was accurate.

“I was alleged to have been driving 45 MPH,” Lucero told TheNewspaper. “I have been driving for over four decades and never have received a speeding ticket — by a human or by a camera — on the East or West coasts where I have lived. I called up the city of Gaithersburg police and asked a few questions about the camera. A few days later I had more questions and called and asked further questions. I wasn’t receiving consistent answers, and this began to trouble me.”

Lucero’s questioning uncovered a goldmine of information. She had been flashed on MD 355, a six-lane highway with a posted limit of 30 MPH. Lucero asked the State Highway Administration (SHA) for the engineering justification of the speed limit, and officials realized no speed study had been performed in the past five years — even though federal guidelines recommend engineering studies be performed before the use of photo enforcement. SHA completed a study in January and found that the speed limit should have actually been set at 40 MPH, especially since photo radar was being used.

“Given the data and information below, we do not believe that the existing 30 MPH speed limit is appropriate,” SHA District 3 traffic engineer Andrew Bossi wrote to the city in March. “Observations of the [speed] camera’s impacts to traffic noted that motorists would brake significantly at each camera location, followed by accelerating immediately afterwards. This effect was most pronounced at the southbound camera, where motorists were observed frequently bunching together at the camera position. Given the recent installation of the cameras, quantifiable safety data is not yet available; but the current conditions may pose a more significant risk for rear-end and sideswipe conditions and, with speeds increasing immediately beyond the cameras, may not be achieving the desired safety benefits.”

Gaithersburg officials ignored the safety warning and insisted that the speed limits in the area where cameras can be used be lowered, not raised.

“At the meeting our mayor and city council were unanimous in the desire to not raise the 30 MPH speed limit in this area and, in fact, have requested that the existing 30 MPH speed limit that now begins at Education Boulevard be extended an additional 750 feet to the south, to Central Avenue,” Gaithersburg Public Works Engineering Services Director Ollie K. Mumpower wrote in an April 7 email. “Both Public Works and the police department support the council request.”

Lucero’s next step was to review state law, where she noticed a provision requiring that the “speed monitoring system operator” maintain a “daily log” proving that the system has been properly calibrated. She asked for the November 21 log, but Gaithersburg only supplied the logs for the preceding Friday and following Monday. As she later learned, the individual performing the so-called calibrations did not work weekends. After a number of delays, Lucero took her evidence before District Court Judge J. Michael Conroy on April 12.

“The validity of the ticket depends on a daily calibration testing of the camera unit,” Lucero argued. “I believe the evidence in my case, the citation, was illegally obtained. The camera images were obtained illegally because the camera was not operated in accordance with state law.”

Judge Conroy found her not guilty, placing Lucero in the most rarefied of company. According to Montgomery County documents, 742,470 speed camera tickets were issued between fiscal 2007 and 2009. Of these, only ten were found not guilty. Lucero hopes others will be inspired to challenge tickets issued by the system in violation of state law.

Sample calibration logs are available in a 850k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Photo Radar Digital Fixed Unit Deployment Log (City of Gaithersburg, Maryland, 4/29/2010)


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Canadian Judge: Forget Arbitration, Culled Dealers Can Sue GM Fri, 23 Apr 2010 22:24:41 +0000

Automotive News [sub] reports that 19 rejected Canadian GM dealers have been given the green light to sue GM as a class, rather than go through the arbitration process that is being used to resolve dealer cull disputes in the US. The dealers are suing GM for breach of their dealer agreements, and for failing to provide compensation beyond wind-down costs. They argue that the arbitration process would be expensive for dealers, non-transparent to the taxpayers who funded GM’s reorganization, and would put GM at an unfair advantage.

One dealer explains:

For GM it would have been divide and conquer and control the flow of information.

Superior Court Judge Sarah Pepall agreed, ruling that the dealers have a common cause against GM and should be able to pursue their claims jointly in public court. Another lawsuit by Canadian GM dealers, naming both General Motors and its Canadian counsel, and alleging misconduct in the execution of the Canadian dealer cull is still pending. The very public drama between GM and its dealers that began with its bankruptcy-era cull of 1,573 dealerships may be nearly a year old now, but it’s showing few signs of stopping any time soon.

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California Court Consolidates Toyota Lawsuits Fri, 09 Apr 2010 22:10:28 +0000

The LA Times reports that “more than 100 suits seeking class-action status, as well as at least 50 personal injury cases” against Toyota have been consolidated to a single courtroom, under the jurisdiction of U.S. District Judge James Selna. According to Reuters, the ruling by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation did state that:

We are initially persuaded that the centralized proceedings should eventually include the related personal injury and wrongful death actions

The WSJ [sub] describes Selna’s experience in these matters:

His record includes complex corporate cases. Judge Selna presided over a long-running patent infringement case between chipmakers Qualcomm Inc. and Broadcom Corp., ruling in 2008 that Qualcomm had violated an injunction by selling and offering to sell chips containing Broadcom’s patented technologies and failing to pay royalties.

He presided over a case seeking class action status brought by a laptop computer buyer against eMachines, asserting false advertising and other violations of state consumer protection laws. The judge carefully parsed his rulings, finding only some of the claims were actionable.

“Describing a product as ‘quality’ or as having ‘high performance criteria’ are the types of subjective characterizations that Illinois courts have repeatedly held to be mere puffing,” he said in dismissing one of the claims in November 2005.

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Will Hedge Fund Lawsuits Scupper The VW-Porsche Deal? Thu, 08 Apr 2010 17:20:23 +0000

Generally speaking, official prospectus information tends to run on the alarmist side, warning investors of any and all possible problems, regardless of how likely they are to take place. Which is why you rarely see news organizations like Reuters pick up on prospectus warnings, like today’s story on a Volkswagen warning that its merger with Porsche could be scuttled by lawsuits filed by angry hedge funds.  Porsche’s notorious “short squeeze” of hedge funds who were speculating on VW stock in the leadup to its planned takeover has drawn lawsuits in several countries which, according to VW’s recent capital increase prospectus, could:

place a considerable burden on Porsche’s financial resources and liquidity position, and if substantial in magnitude, could even lead to the insolvency of Porsche Automobil Holding SE…. The merger may not be possible at all, or may only be carried out at a later date, and the planned target structure of the integrated automotive company with Porsche may not be achieved or may only be achieved at a later point

With a billion bucks at stake in just one of those suits alone, VW’s warning is wildly appropriate. The only question remaining: do the hedgies have a shot at winning? Given that Porsche was commonly being called “a hedge fund that makes a few cars,” CFO Holge Härter’s defense that “we are not speculators—we never have been and will never want to be,” rings a bit hollow. Especially considering the Porsche shareholder meeting transcripts that have emerged. The saga continues…

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Federal Appeals Court Embraces Speed Cameras Wed, 31 Mar 2010 13:51:58 +0000

A divided three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit yesterday upheld the imposition of automated tickets on individuals who may or may not have committed any crime. The judges ruled on a case that began when Kelly Mendenhall received a ticket in the mail for allegedly speeding in Akron, Ohio in December 2005. Although the ticket against her was dismissed, her husband, Warner, fought the legitimacy of the Akron ordinance all the way to the state supreme court which, unlike the high courts in Minnesota and Missouri, approved of speed camera use (view decision).

The Sixth Circuit panel briefly decided that the automated enforcement fine was civil in nature and therefore that full due process protections did not apply. The judges decided to keep the decision unpublished because it agreed with the lower court opinion on the subject and was not interested in rehashing the same argument.

“We find that the district court properly applied the law and ably articulated the reasons supporting the conclusion that this enforcement scheme is civil in nature,” Judge Ralph B. Guy, Jr wrote. “We… reject plaintiff’s assertion that it violates due process to impose civil penalties for speeding violations irrespective of whether the owner was, in fact, driving the vehicle when the violation was recorded.”

Judge Eric L. Clay disagreed, writing that he would have invalidated the speed camera ordinance in Akron because it does not present the opportunity for a fair hearing to the innocent.

“Akron’s civil speed enforcement scheme violates due process by failing to provide vehicle owners with an opportunity to avoid liability by proving that they did not commit the infraction,” Clay wrote. “While the owner may request an administrative hearing at which she can present witnesses, documents, or other evidence relating to the issue of liability, the ordinance does not indicate that proof that the owner was not in fact driving the vehicle at the time of the violation can provide a basis for avoiding liability at the administrative hearing.”

Clay pointed out that the city could easily have included a provision to allow an owner to offer evidence that would show someone else had been driving. The city, however, only cares that someone pays the ticket, not whether the recipient is guilty or not.

“Akron does not provide an owner with a mechanism to avoid an erroneous deprivation of her property interest by proving that she was not driving at the time the violation occurred,” Clay wrote. “Rather, Akron holds a driver liable regardless of whether she was the person who committed the act in question.”

A copy of the decision is available in an 80k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Mendenhall v. Akron (US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 3/29/2010


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Federal Court Approves Traffic Stop Tasering Of Pregnant Woman Mon, 29 Mar 2010 13:25:50 +0000

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Friday that it was acceptable for police to taser a pregnant mother over a minor traffic ticket. On November 23, 2004, Seattle, Washington Police Officer Juan Ornelas had been running a speed trap when Malaika Brooks passed by while driving her eleven-year-old son to school. Ornelas pulled over Brooks and accused her of speeding at 32 MPH. Brooks believed that the officer had mistakenly clocked the car ahead of hers, so she refused to sign the ticket thinking it would be an admission of guilt.

“I’m not signing, I’m not signing,” Brooks said.

Eight years previously, Brooks had been stopped for another offense and she refused to sign the ticket. The officer on the scene allowed her to go without incident. This time, however, a second officer on the scene, Donald M. Jones, became incensed. He brandished a taser saying it would hurt her “extremely bad” if she did not get out of the car so that they could take her to jail. Brooks said that she was seven months pregnant, but Jones did not care. Ornelas put her in an armlock while Jones blasted the pregnant woman three times with the taser in her thigh, shoulder and neck. The officers then dragged her out of the car.

A jury subsequently refused to convict Brooks of resisting arrest. Brooks sued the officers over their use of excessive force. The appellate court, however, believed the jury to be in error.

“Based on Brooks’s undisputed uncooperative behavior, a reasonably prudent person would have believed Brooks was violating section 9A.76.020 by obstructing the Officers’ attempts to obtain her signature and complete the traffic stop,” Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall wrote for the majority.

The court went on to argue that the use of force on a non-threatening and non-violent motorist was appropriate and reasonable. The appellate court ruled that the pregnant woman could pose a threat to three armed male police officers.

“Although obstructing an officer is a more serious offense than the traffic violations, it is nonetheless not a serious crime,” Hall wrote. “It would also be incorrect to say Brooks posed no threat to officers. While she might have been less of a threat because her force so far had been directed solely at immobilizing herself, a suspect who repeatedly refuses to comply with instructions or leave her car escalates the risk involved for officers unable to predict what type of noncompliance might come next… Brooks may not have posed a great threat, she did pose some threat by virtue of her continued non-compliance.”

The court then gave the officers involved full immunity for their actions, ending the lawsuit filed by brooks. Judge Marsha S. Berzon filed a blistering dissent pointing out that the legislature in 2006 removed the requirement for motorists to sign a ticket as evidence of the lack of proportion of the police response in this case.

“Refusing to sign a speeding ticket was at the time a nonarrestable misdemeanor; now, in Washington, it is not even that,” Berzon wrote. “I fail utterly to comprehend how my colleagues are able to conclude that it was objectively reasonable to use any force against Brooks, let alone three activations of a Taser, in response to such a trivial offense…. Instead, a traffic offense — assuming it occurred — turned into an encounter that inflicted physical and, in all likelihood, emotional pain on a citizen who was not in any way dangerous to anyone.”

Berzon went on to blast the court’s theory that Brooks was guilty of obstructing a police officer.

“The majority’s attempt to elevate the misdemeanor of refusing to sign the notice to the gross misdemeanor of obstructing an officer is simply beyond the pale,” Berzon wrote. “Nor does the majority point to any authority supporting its off-the-wall theory… In short, there was just no cause to arrest Brooks for obstructing an officer. None. That is probably why the officers have never suggested that there was.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 220k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Brooks v. Seattle (US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 3/28/2010)


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Federal Court Upholds Illegal Traffic Camera Evidence Wed, 24 Mar 2010 14:37:55 +0000

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that municipalities in most states may use evidence illegally collected by photo enforcement cameras. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made its decision in the case of Stephen Bell who sued both American Traffic Solutions (ATS), an Arizona-based red light camera operator, and Redflex Traffic Solutions of Australia for violating Texas statutes requiring companies involved in private investigation to obtain a license. The three-judge appellate panel determined that there was no problem with companies offering unlawfully obtained evidence in civil court cases.

“…Illegally obtained evidence may be admitted in civil traffic violation proceedings and that therefore the use of such evidence creates no injury,” the court ruled.

Neither ATS nor Redflex have gone through the extensive background checks required of public investigation companies as the process is time consuming and expensive. Bell argued that these firms fit perfectly into the definitions provided under state law.

“Unless the person holds a license as an investigations company, a person may not… offer to perform the services of an investigations company,” Texas Code Section 1702 states. “A person acts as an investigations company for the purposes of this chapter if the person engages in the business of obtaining or furnishing… information related to… crime or wrongs done; or… engages in the business of securing… evidence for use before a court, board, officer, or investigating committee… furnishing information includes information obtained or furnished through the review and analysis of, and the investigation into the content of, computer-based data not available to the public.”

On the substance of his complaint, Bell convinced a number of judges. Last April, Dallas County, Texas District Court Presiding Judge Craig Smith ruled that a photo ticketing company “is required to obtain a license under the Texas Occupations Code.” A federal district court judge also essentially agreed with Bell, assuming the need for a license in a ruling. But Judge Smith, the district judge and now the appellate panel agreed that on technical grounds, Bell had no standing to sue because he had not suffered injury to a “legally protected” interest.

The appeals court cited the Texas Appeals Court case Hudson v. Winn in which an unlicensed private investigator lied to gain entry into a home. The court found that the victim in the case had no standing to sue for negligence.

“Similarly, in this case, appellants have only made the bare allegation that ATS collected evidence without a license, without alleging any facts to demonstrate how ATS’s lack of a license contributed to any invasion of their privacy,” the court ruled. “Consequently, they have not shown the causation necessary to provide standing to advance their negligence per se claim in federal court.”

A copy of the case is available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Bell v. American Traffic Solutions (Us Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 3/23/2010)


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Report Warns Of Private Car Repo Dangers Thu, 18 Mar 2010 17:56:53 +0000

Private companies that repossess automobiles without the involvement of law enforcement are creating potentially deadly situations, a report released Thursday by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) warned. The Boston, Massachusetts-based non-profit legal advocacy group examined the consequences of turning car seizures over to private firms, particularly during the recent economic downturn.

“In just the past three years, the publicly reported toll from self-help repossessions is shocking,” John W. Van Alst and Rick Jurgens wrote in the NCLC report. “Six deaths. Dozens of injuries and arrests. Pistols, rifles, shotguns, knives, fists and automobiles wielded as weapons. And, in at least three cases, repo agents towed away automobiles with children under the age of nine inside.”

An estimated 1.9 million repossessions take place each year. In 33 states, no license or background check is required for the companies that repossess cars on behalf of lenders and car dealers. This means convicted felons can, and do, operate repo businesses.

The NCLC report takes issue with the practice of allowing a lender to unilaterally seize a car from its owner for missing a payment without first having a neutral third-party judge or administrative officer verify the claim.

“With the ability to repossess on a whim, dealers and lenders can use repossessions not simply as a means of retaking collateral when a debtor defaults,” the report stated. “Lenders can also use the threat of repossession to intimidate consumers. For example, the prospect of having a car seized can be used to keep a consumer from asserting the right to withhold payment for a warranty violation or other breach of contract in the sale of the car or the right to revoke acceptance of a car with substantial defects.”

The report cited court documents that showed one major repo company forced its agents to work up to 90 hours a week without overtime pay. “Each of you have the ability to do WHATEVER it takes to pick up more cars,” an email sent to employees urged. Those who failed to meet a minimum weekly quota of twenty cars were forced to work longer hours. The pressure to take extreme actions in several cases has resulted in violence both against vehicle owners and the repo men themselves.

NCLC recommended that states adopt laws that require lenders to provide notice and provide car owners with a set period to remedy missed payments. It also recommended that lenders obtain a court order prior to seizing a vehicle. This, the group says, would allow motorists to have the opportunity to have a chance to challenge an improper seizure in a neutral setting. The report also urged that repo companies be licensed to prohibit the hiring of individuals with violent criminal histories.

A copy of the report is available in a 1.4mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Repo Madness (National Consumer Law Center, 3/11/2010)


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AP: Toyota Suits Could Top $3b Tue, 09 Mar 2010 14:54:18 +0000

Thanks to the “optics” (if not the reality) of the latest Toyota sudden unintended acceleration scare, the story has new legs just as Toyota and Exponent were hoping to cut them off. But as much as dramatic, cop-calms-killer-Prius headlines keep the Great Toyota Panic alive, so to does the fact that the 89-odd class-action lawsuits filed against Toyota could be worth over $3b to plaintiffs and their counsel. And that’s not counting any of the incidents in which people were actually injured or killed (which are actually relatively rare). No, that $3b+ is going to the truly deserving… and their lawyers.

According to the AP, one vein of suits in particular, which accuses Toyota of concealing safety defects and causing the resale value of its vehicles to decline, could be worth $3b on its own, according to a lawyer’s estimate of a $500 settlement being paid to 6m Toyota owners. But even that doesn’t explain what’s really driving this story: with settlement amounts projected in the billions, lawyers fees could easily reach $1b.

On March 25, a panel of federal judges will convene in San Diego to decide if may of the Toyota cases can be rolled into a single jurisdiction. If they can find judges who aren’t potential class members. As one judge scheduled to preside on that panel noted,

The court owns a 2000 Toyota Avalon SLX. In addition, the adult son of the court who has not lived in the court’s home for many years owns a 2005 Prius.

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Missouri Supreme Court Strikes Down Red Light Cameras Thu, 04 Mar 2010 14:56:42 +0000

The supreme court of Missouri sent photo enforcement companies scrambling on Monday after it declared the red light camera administrative hearing process in the city of Springfield to be void. The high court moved with unusual speed, handing down a strongly worded, unanimous decision about one month after hearing oral arguments in the case.

“This is a $100 case,” Judge Michael A. Wolff wrote for the court. “But sometimes, it’s not the money — it’s the principle.”

At first glance, the court’s decision appeared to be limited to a technical legal issue regarding Springfield’s authority to adjudicate a photo ticket against motorist Adolph Belt in an administrative hearing. The court indicated that this was plainly not permitted under state law. Section 479.010 of the Missouri Code requires ordinance violations of this type to be heard in a circuit or municipal court. Springfield had argued that its administrative hearing officer was the first and last word on all judgments, with no appellate courts — not even the supreme court itself — having any jurisdiction over the matter.

A closer look at the ruling shows that the high court judges expressed a dim view toward the legal arguments often cited by municipalities to justify their red light cameras programs. For example, the court made it clear that no city had any authority to treat red light violations in the same manner as a parking ticket.

“The administrative system at issue here is created for a violation of a red light ordinance, which typically is considered a moving violation,” Wolff wrote.

That means no city in Missouri, including Kansas City and St. Louis, has the authority to issue civil violations that carry no points. A footnote explained further that charter cities have no power to act in areas limited by state law. Both premises are key rebuttals to the argument that municipalities in the state have the authority to create red light camera programs without the sanction of state law. The high court also called into question Springfield’s use of short yellows.

“Undeniably a traffic expert, Belt timed the yellow caution light at the intersection and found that it was rather quick,” Wolff wrote. “He also concluded that the stoplight and the cameras needed to be synchronized.”

Another footnote cited three articles by TheNewspaper that Belt had brought to the court’s attention.

“Another article he found stated that a study in Texas had found that adding an additional second to yellow lights corresponded to a 40-percent reduction in crashes [view study],” Wolff wrote. “Even so, the city of Springfield had chosen to reduce its yellow-light timing at more than 100 intersections prior to starting red light camera ticketing [view article].”

State supreme courts are now evenly split on the issue of photo enforcement. Missouri’s supreme court joined the Minnesota high court which struck down red light cameras as illegal in 2007, explaining that cities may not water down the due process protections of motorists simply for the ease of issuing tickets (view ruling). On the other hand, the Ohio Supreme Court (read opinion) and Iowa Supreme Court (read opinion) declared camera use consistent with state laws.

The Missouri Supreme Court judges voided Belt’s citation without remanding proceedings to a lower court. A copy of the decision is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Missouri v. Belt (Supreme Court of Missouri, 3/2/2010)


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Who’s Suing Hyundai For This Ad? Mon, 01 Mar 2010 19:51:07 +0000

Think you have it figured out? Hit the jump for the answer…

Yes, it’s Louis Vuitton, for the subtle basketball graphics-check. Reuters reports:

Estimating that “tens of millions” of Super Bowl viewers and an “untold number” of online viewers saw the commercial, [LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA] said Hyundai intended the ad “to benefit commercially from the fame and renown of the LVM Marks by creating a false association between Louis Vuitton and its automobiles.”

Louis Vuitton is seeking triple damages, punitive damages, a halt to the alleged infringement, and other remedies.

Remember kids, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything.

[UPDATE: Could GM sue LV for this ad?]

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