Red light camera court battle goes on

July 19, 2011 5:57:23 PM PDT
The fight over those controversial red light cameras landed back in federal court on Tuesday. The company that set up the cameras says the city of Houston owes them millions. With the red light cameras back on, it seems every Houston driver has an opinion about them.

"I don't see the point of them, really," said driver Faith Haller. "I just think it's just a waste of time, in my opinion."

"It does make it safer, and it's revenue for people who break the law," countered driver Neal Beihn.

But the only opinion that really matters is what happens in federal court. On Tuesday morning, the city and the camera vender -- ATS -- both addressed their concerns to Judge Lynn Hughes. At its heart is just how much money the city owes ATS for the period of time the cameras were turned off.

The city's position obviously is that, at most, we would owe the ATS for a period of four months," said city attorney Dave Feldman.

ATS says the city could be on the hook for millions more if the cameras go off before the end of the contract in 2014.

"If they had not turned the cameras back on, they would be facing a $20 million damage award that the taxpayers of Houston would have had to shoulder," said ATS attorney Andy Taylor.

With no agreement in sight, it looks like the case could head to trial next year, all while the cameras are tracking red light camera violations.

Our legal analyst says in his opinion, the court battle is an unnecessary waste of time and money.

"The city should put the cameras on, they should start issuing tickets, and then continue with the litigation, but honor the terms of the contract," said KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy. "It's really simple. It's not that complicated."

Androphy also said he believes the contract should go on until 2014 and then go to the voters. In the meantime, the cameras are on, but tickets aren't being issued yet because they're not manned by Houston police officers. The city isn't sure when that'll happen.


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