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Gina Fischetti v. the Village of Schaumburg

March 23, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 09 CH 12523 Honorable Carolyn Quinn, Judge Presiding

JUSTICE McBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices J. GORDON and HOWSE concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 In 2009, defendant Village of Schaumburg, Illinois, used automated cameras at the intersection of Meacham and Woodfield Roads to photograph cars that ran red light traffic signals. Schaumburg's traffic code provided that a car's owner was liable for the violation of a red light regardless of who was driving, unless the car was previously reported stolen. Plaintiff Gina Fischetti, a resident of St. Charles, Illinois, was fined $100 as the owner of a car that ran a red light. She complained to the circuit court that Schaumburg adjudicated the alleged violation through an administrative hearing process even though the municipality had no statutory authority to utilize that method and had disregarded her statutory and constitutional rights to a trial by jury. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Schaumburg on grounds that Illinois laws which authorized automated red light cameras also expressly provided for violations to be administratively adjudicated and that civil penalties did not trigger constitutional and statutory rights to a jury of one's peers. Fischetti appeals.

¶ 2 This action began in the circuit court of Cook County when Fischetti filed a two-count complaint seeking declaratory judgment and administrative review. Attached to her pleading was a "Red Light Violation Notice" issued by Schaumburg on January 26, 2009, which included two photographs of her vehicle taken on January 19, 2009, at 2:01:50 p.m. as it proceeded through a snowy intersection 42.2 seconds after the signal light had changed to red and one close-up photograph of the vehicle's license plate. The notice to Fischetti cited title 7, chapter 78, of Schaumburg's municipal code and stated this "photographic record *** constitutes prima facie evidence of a violation," "all individuals appearing on the vehicle's license plate registration are legally responsible for this violation," and "YOU MUST EITHER PAY THE APPLICABLE [$100] FINE OR CONTEST THIS CIVIL VIOLATION NOTICE [by 02/16/09]." The notice informed Fischetti that she had the option of contesting by mail or at an "in-person hearing." On February 8, 2009, she contested in a letter which stated "you do not have jurisdiction to issue me a citation for disobeying a traffic control signal." A hearing officer took this into consideration and on February 26, 2009, issued a "Notice of Findings[,] Decision and Order" indicating lack of jurisdiction was not one of the recognized defenses to the violation and that Fischetti was liable for disobeyance of the traffic control signal. Fischetti paid the $100 fine.

¶ 3 In count I of the complaint Fischetti filed on March 19, 2009, she sought four judicial declarations. First, a declaration that Schaumburg did not have jurisdiction to administratively adjudicate her traffic violation due to section 1-2.1.2 of the Illinois Municipal Code, which provides that a municipality may administratively adjudicate local code violations "except for *** any offense under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar offense that is a traffic regulation governing the movement of vehicles." 65 ILCS 5/1-2.1-2 (West 2006); 625 ILCS 5/1-100 et seq. (West 2006). She also sought a declaration that section 103-6 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 and "the constitution" entitled her to a trial by jury regarding the alleged civil violation. 725 ILCS 5/103-6 (West 2006). Then, without any further allegations, she asked the court to declare that the administrative process "violate[d] due process" and that the judgment of liability was void ab initio. Fischettti styled count II as a request for administrative review and alleged that a lack of jurisdiction entitled her to a $100 judgment.

¶ 4 After Fischetti and Schaumburg filed and briefed cross-motions for summary judgment, Fischetti filed an amended complaint which added class allegations to her original pleading. The circuit court heard oral arguments, granted Schaumburg's motion for summary judgment, and then struck Fischetti's cross-motion as moot. As we summarized above, the court reasoned that State laws expressly provide for automated red light tickets to be administratively adjudicated and that civil penalties do not trigger any right to a jury. Fischetti's motion for reconsideration was unsuccessful. She now seeks a different outcome on appeal.

¶ 5 The interpretation of a statute and the entry of summary judgment are questions of law that we review de novo without any deference to the trial court's interpretation. Founders Insurance Co. v. American Country Insurance Co., 66 Ill. App. 3d 64, 69, 851 N.E.2d 120, 125 (2006). Summary judgment is properly granted when the pleadings, affidavits, deposition transcripts and exhibits on file, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Founders Insurance, 66 Ill. App. 3d at 69, 851 N.E.2d at 125; Catom Trucking, Inc. v. City of Chicago, 2011 IL App (1st) 101146, ¶ 9, 952 N.E.2d 170, 1173.

¶ 6 We are not persuaded by Fischetti's primary argument on appeal. Fischetti has simply disregarded pertinent statutes when she argues there is no authority for Schaumburg to use an administrative process in conjunction with its automated red light cameras. She has accurately quoted section 1-2.1-2 of the Illinois Municipal Code, which authorizes administrative adjudication of local code violations "except for offense[s] under the Illinois Vehicle Code or a similar offense that is a traffic regulation governing the movement of vehicles." 65 ILCS 5/1-2.1-2 (West 2006). See Catom Trucking, 2011 IL App (1st) 101146, 952 N.E.2d 170 (finding that section 1-2.1-2 stripped city's department of administrative hearings of jurisdiction to adjudicate citations for operating overweight trucks on Chicago streets, as citations were for moving violations). She characterizes that section of the Municipal Code as "the enabling statute," but then fails to reconcile it with sections of the Illinois Vehicle Code which specifically allowed for the procedure Schaumburg followed once it photographed her vehicle running the red light at Meacham and Woodfield. The Vehicle Code, however, was at the heart of Schaumburg's motion for summary judgment and the court order now on appeal. Citizens cannot pick and choose which statutes apply to them. Statutes are read together and construed in a harmonious fashion. Schaumburg State Bank v. Bank of Wheaton, 197 Ill. App. 3d 713, 720, 555 N.E.2d 48, 52 (1990); Knolls Condominium Ass'n v. Harms, 202 Ill. 2d 450, 458--59, 781 N.E.2d 261, 267 (2002) ("A court presumes that the legislature intended that two or more statutes which relate to the same subject are to be read harmoniously so that no provisions are rendered inoperative."). Furthermore, it is presumed that the General Assembly acts rationally and with full knowledge of all previous enactments and will not enact a law which contradicts a prior statute unless it expressly repeals the prior language. State of Illinois, Secretary of State v. Mikusch, 138 Ill. 2d 242, 247-28, 562 N.E.2d 168, 170 (1990). In the unlikely event, however, that a general statute and specific statute on the same subject are conflicting, the specific language will control. Mikusch, 138 Ill. 2d at 254, 562 N.E.2d at 173.

¶ 7 The Municipal Code section that Fischetti cites was already in effect when the General Assembly enacted legislation in 2006 that authorized the deployment of red light cameras in Illinois; created a civil, non-criminal penalty; and provided for administrative adjudications in which it is presumed that registered vehicle owners are liable for violations. Section 11-208 of the Vehicle Code, which concerns "Powers of local authorities," was amended by the state legislature effective May 22, 2006, with the addition of paragraph (f), which states, "A municipality or county designated in Section 11-208.6 may enact an ordinance providing for an automated traffic law enforcement system to enforce violations of this Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance and imposing liability on a registered owner of a vehicle used in such a violation." Pub. Act 94-795, §5 (eff. May 22, 2006); 625 ILCS 5/11-208.6 (West 2006). Section 11-208.3 of the Vehicle Code, which had previously provided for "a system of administrative adjudication of vehicular standing and parking violations and vehicle compliance violations," was amended to also encompass "automated traffic law violations as defined in Section 11-208.6." Pub. Act 94-795, § 5 (eff. May 22, 2006); 625 ILCS 5/11-208.3 (West 2006). New language authorized "[any municipality] to operate an administrative adjudication system" and stated the municipality should provide "service of an automated traffic law violation notice by mail to the address of the registered owner of the cited vehicle." Pub. Act 94-795, § 5 (eff. May 22, 2006) (adding 625 ILCS 5/11-208.3(b)(3) (West 2006)). Section 11-208.6 was an entirely new addition to the traffic laws and it stated in pertinent part:

"Sec. 11-208.6. Automated traffic law enforcement system.

(a) As used in this Section, 'automated traffic law enforcement system' means a device with one or more motor vehicle sensors working in conjunction with a red light signal to produce recorded images of motor vehicles entering an intersection against a red signal indication in violation of Section 11-306 of this Code or a similar provision of a local ordinance." Pub. Act 94-795, § 5 (eff. May 22, 2006) (adding 625 ILCS 5/11-208.6 (West 2006)).

The statutory section cited there, section 11-306, already provided for the familiar red, yellow, and green light traffic-control system and said in pertinent part:

"Sec. 11-306. Traffic-control signal legend. Whenever traffic is controlled by traffic-control signals exhibiting different colored lights or color lighted arrows, successively one at a time or in combination, only the colors green, red and yellow shall be used, except for special pedestrian signals carrying a word legend, and ...

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