By on May 23, 2011

A judge with a history of overturning the will of Washington voters decided Friday to block the public from a say in the use of red light cameras. Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges sided with traffic camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) which filed the suit to prevent a repeat of what happened in Mukilteo. In November, residents were allowed to vote on an anti-camera initiative, and 71 percent voted to ban the devices.

“Defendants We the People Wenatchee, Washington Campaign for Liberty, VotersWantMoreChoices.com, Bancams.com and intervenor-defendant Matt Erickson are enjoined from submitting proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 to the city of Wenatchee and/or Chelan County for inclusion on the ballot, and defendants Chelan County and Skip Moore (in his official capacity as Chelan County Auditor) are enjoined from taking any action to process proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 or to include proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 on the ballot,” Judge Bridges wrote.

Bridges endorsed the ATS position which held that the legislature gave the city council — not the people — the ability to decide whether to use red light cameras and speed cameras. He also sided with the company’s argument that no contract with a photo enforcement firm could be voided in any way for the duration of the contract. Under this reasoning, a city council could sign a long-term 50-year contract with a camera vendor. Such a decision would be binding for a half-century as the public could vote out the council or take any other steps to undo the decision.

The decision is at odds with that of a Snohomish County Superior Court judge who ruled last year with respect to the Mukilteo initiative that it would have been premature to side with ATS in attempting to stop the election before it happened (view order). Erickson argued that the ATS legal challenge and the inevitable appeal was a transparent attempt to thwart the democratic process.

“The unavoidable result of the city filing a pre-election challenge is to distract the signature-gathering drive for proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1, at least if those gathering signatures care to have a voice defending their position in court,” Erickson wrote. “One could say that the decision to seek a pre-election challenge of proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 was a ‘can’t lose’ proposition for the city and ATS, for even if they lost in court, they could perhaps impact the signature drive sufficiently such that it could prevent the proposed initiative from qualifying for the ballot.”

Appointed to the bench by Democratic Governor Booth Gardner, Bridges is best known for siding with the election of Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, over Dino Rossi, a Republican who was declared victor in the first two counts of the ballot.

A copy of the judge’s order is available in a 1.2mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Order Granting City of Wenatchee Motion (Chelan County, Washington Superior Court, 5/20/2011)

[Courtesy:Thenewspaper.com]

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12 Comments on “Washington: Activist Judge Shuts Down Anti-Camera Vote...”


  • avatar
    obbop

    I betcha’ he feels so very sexy wearing his black dress.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    The corruptive power of all this money rears its ugly head again: The ruling is flat wrong and totally against statute and case law in Washington State. Blocking the gathering of signatures is a clear violation of free speech. This judge needs to be removed as he apparently cannot read a law book.

    Oh well, seek donations to file an appeal to get it overthrown…

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “Such a decision would be binding for a half-century as the public could vote out the council or take any other steps to undo the decision.”

    This sentence could use the help of an editor to make sure it makes sense…

  • avatar
    twotone

    Sounds like a time for a city council recall.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    That’s what they get for not lynching the demi-god after he fixed the gubernatorial election. He should be far too dead to legislate from the bench by now.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    You know what? Much as you might not like it, and taking the camera issue of the picture, the judge is likely right.

    Bridges endorsed the ATS position which held that the legislature gave the city council — not the people — the ability to decide whether to use red light cameras and speed cameras.

    The city council is, effectively, a representative republic. Unless council passes a resolution calling for a binding referendum, and the local constitution allows such referendums to be binding, generally the public has no say outside of municipal elections.

    This is usually a good thing as it keeps knee-jerk populism in check. Politicians who are too spineless to take action generally foist everything that isn’t complete pablum to a plebiscite so that they can pull a Pontius Pilate when they’re called to reckon for their choices. The result is, well, very much like what’s happened in California.

    It’s all nice and good to say it “subverts the democratic process”, but “the democractic process” includes the “two wolves and one sheep voting on dinner” problem.

    He also sided with the company’s argument that no contract with a photo enforcement firm could be voided in any way for the duration of the contract

    This I have some trouble with. Contracts can be voided with penalty by one party, which is probably what he meant. I can’t actually find evidence of what the judge said vis a vis this point, but this is Law 101 stuff, and I suspect TheNewspaper is playing fast and loose with the truth.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that something’s left out. There’s a link to the Order but not to the Opinion. The article selectively cites and quotes the opinion but doesn’t actually give a link to the opinion to show what the judge’s actual reasoning was. Here’s more from the local paper The Wenatchee World:

      Bridges ruled, however, that Erickson may continue to collect signatures so he could submit them to the county auditor if Bridges’ ruling is overturned.

      “Mr. Erickson, your appeal rights start now,” Bridges said at the end of his ruling.

      The ruling followed two hours of testimony from Erickson, city attorney Steve Smith and Vanessa Power, a Seattle attorney representing American Traffic Solutions, the company that manages the red-light cameras for the city.

      “I’m not really happy with this,” Bridges said from the bench after the ruling, and he noted that his job is “to follow the law.” He addressed Erickson: “I have the utmost respect for you and your passion.”

  • avatar
    vento97

    I guess this is what is meant by “The law is NOT on your side…”

  • avatar
    kkt

    Bridges is best known for siding with the election of Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, over Dino Rossi, a Republican who was declared victor in the first two counts of the ballot.

    That’s a gross distortion of what happened in the 2004 post-election court case. Procedures throughout Washington were not particularly good for taking felons’ names off voter registration lists. The Rossi campaign plaintiffs wanted to go through the votes in Democratic-leaning King County with a fine-tooth comb for anyone who voted when they shouldn’t have, while not examining Republican-leaning counties.

    Judge Bridges was appointed by a Democrat (hard to avoid since for the past 30 years 26 of them have had a Democrat as governor). But Bridges is not liberal by any means. Plaintiffs selected his court in a tiny obscure county (rather than King County where they wanted their proposed remedy to be applied) because out of the whole state they thought they’d have the best chance of winning there. Bridges didn’t “side with Gregoire”, he said there was no evidence that King County was any worse at kicking felons off the voting rolls than any other county and any further checking applied in King County would have to be applied statewide.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      You kind of omit some inportant stuff about that election. Democrat controlled election boards kept on recounting, finding extra Gregoire votes and disqualifying Rossi votes until they got the outcome they wanted. It wasn’t all about felons and never say King County is just like the rest of the counties in the state. It isn’t by a long shot. The people in the east would secede if they could because King County has ruined the whole state.

  • avatar
    kkt

    Election boards are not controlled by either party. The last recount was done by hand with representatives of each party able to challenge every ballot, and Republicans challenged more than their share of votes. Yes, some ballots were found that were missed during the initial count, but their numbers matched what was issued, they were not voted twice, and there was no evidence that they were tampered with. You can be sure one campaign or the other would have would have challenged anything suspicious and probably the most conservative judge in the state couldn’t find anything that would hold up.

    Have you looked at where state revenue comes from and goes to? Puget Sound supports the rest of the state.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    Perhaps it’s time for those folks to consider taking things in their own hands.

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