You Can Fight Oregon and Win: Five-year Battle Sparked by Red Light Ticket Ends

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

We’ve told you before about the legal saga of Mats Järlström, a Swedish-born man living in the green and uber progressive state of Oregon. A few years ago, Järlström found himself in the crosshairs of the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying after performing and submitting an analysis of his town’s traffic light timing — specifically, the duration of the amber light cycle.

What ensued was a constitutional legal battle over over the ability to refer to one’s self as an expert in the field of their expertise; in this case, engineering.

This all came about after Järlström’s wife received a red light camera ticket.

You can read about the developments here and here. Järlström, who holds holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Sweden, submitted his three-year analysis of the state’s traffic light cycles (the amber cycle’s too short, he says) while referring to himself as an engineer. The state board slapped him with a $500 fine for “unlicensed practice of engineering.”

Having a background in engineering, Järlström felt he should be legally allowed to refer to himself as an engineer, even though he was not registered as an engineer in Oregon. After finding legal backing in the libertarian group Institute for Justice, Järlström sued.

While the board eventually admitted it violated his free speech rights, refunding the fine and offering to drop its efforts against the engineer — so long as he stopped calling himself that while not acting in a commercial or professional capacity — Järlström pressed on. A few days before the New Year, he finally got his way.

As Oregon Live reports, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman ruled in federal court that some of Oregon’s rules pertaining to engineering practices violates the First Amendment. The state board has shown a “history of overzealous enforcement actions,” Beckerman said in her ruling, adding that “the statutes prohibit truthfully describing oneself as an ‘engineer,’ in any context.”

The state must now remove its definition of “engineer” from Oregon law books, replacing it with a description of who can be considered a “professional” or “registered” engineer. As for Järlström, he can now call himself an engineer both publicly and privately. He can also talk about his traffic light findings freely, so long as he doesn’t do so from a position on a board or from a group that regulates traffic light timing.

You can fight The Man.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Jcwconsult Jcwconsult on Jan 06, 2019

    Agreed it was a lot to go through to get out of one red light scam ticket, but it was a win in a major battle in two ways that are leading to wins in the wars. First, Mats can continue speaking out himself, both orally and in writing, to reveal how the scams work to officials and the public. Second, the press coverage of his battle has been nationwide, and that helps educate people who have not studied the issues about how the scams work. Red light camera rackets are on the decline as more and more people see them for what they are - rackets.

  • Jcwconsult Jcwconsult on Jan 06, 2019

    Traditional engineering documents FALSELY suggest that left turn lane yellows can be shorter than for the through lanes because turning cars go slower so the approach speed number (v) in the formula can be smaller. It is absolutely incorrect for places with dedicated turn lanes and for light traffic conditions that allow the cars to maintain close to through lane speeds until very near the actual turning movements. Florida mandated that turn lanes must have yellows the same as through lanes in September 2013 and many of the turn lane camera violation rates went down by about 90%.

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