The Texas Second Court of Appeals has denied an appeal to a District Court judge's ruling over the special election, which will let voters decide whether to remove or keep red light cameras in Arlington.

Attorney Andy Taylor filed a writ of mandamus and emergency motion for temporary relief to the Court of Appeals Friday on behalf of Arlington resident Jody Weiderman, said Robert Fugate, assistant attorney for City of Arlington.

On March 3, Tom Lowe, 236th District Court judge, dismissed a lawsuit filed by Weiderman against the City of Arlington that would have prevented the vote on red light cameras.

“What they were asking for is to force the trial court judge to hear the case,” Fugate said. “The trial court had already dismissed the case because the judge found that he didn’t have the authority to consider a challenge to the election.”

Fugate said the Court of Appeals most likely denied the appeal because there are four other Texas Supreme Court cases that say the judge made the proper decision.

“After the court of appeals we’ll go to the Supreme Court,” Taylor said in an interview March 3. “This case provides an excellent opportunity to make law, and we’re going to try to accomplish that result. What motivates us here is the fact that we believe in the program, the fact that it saves lives, the fact that it decreases accidents. Nobody has the constitutional right to run a red light.”

Kelly Canon, Arlington Tea Party vice president, presented a petition to remove red light cameras to the City of Arlington on Jan. 20 with more than 5 percent of registered voters' signatures.

Arlington registered voters will be able to vote to remove or keep red light cameras May 9 because of this petition.

The writ of mandamus said nowhere in the Arlington City Charter do the residents of Arlington have any right of citizen initiative or referendum, which is an event where the people vote for or against a law. By state law, the petition gathered enough signatures to require Arlington City Council to put the amendment on the May 9 election ballot, said Jay Warren, City of Arlington marketing communications manager.

“We legated this identical issue five times,” Taylor said in a previous interview. “Each and every one of the five occasions the judges held that this type of election is not valid. I’ll give you the best example, in the city of Houston they, just like the city of Arlington, over our objections, over our warnings, they had that election and people voted, and then we went to court and we obtained a ruling from that court that the entire election was void as a matter of law.”

Taylor filed the emergency motion for temporary relief to block any action of the election moving forward, Fugate said. The relief stated the election is illegal and will use Arlington taxpayer money. The appeal also stated it is important to grant the relief to stop the election because ballots will likely be mailed to overseas voters as early as today. Fugate said the special election will not cost extra taxpayer money because a city council election will be held anyway.

“To stop the ballots to be mailed or printed out – that was their goal,” Fugate said. “The reality is there is already going to be an election for the council members. There is not going to be any additional cost to the taxpayers for this special election.”

The writ of mandamus also stated the election is void because Mayor Robert Cluck did not personally sign the ordinance to add the amendment to the ballot, but a city secretary office staff stamped his signature.

Fugate said the election hasn’t happened yet, so no matter the argument the issue cannot be decided in court yet.

“You just can’t hear any of it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter because it hasn’t happened yet. No matter what your challenge is you can’t hear it at this time”

Taylor said in a previous interview that instead of waiting until the election is thrown out in court they’re trying to stop it before voters on either side of the issue get invested in the outcome.

“Rather than doing it on the back end we’ve been suggesting that we do it on the front end,” Taylor said. “And that is if you can’t validate to call an election then don’t call it.”

Canon said that Taylor, who has represented American Traffic Solutions in other lawsuits, used Jody Weiderman as a surrogate to file the suit. Weiderman was not a registered voter when the lawsuit was filed and did not know who one of the attorneys representing him was.

“I’m very happy that the appeal was denied,” Canon said. “I would call it an act of desperation for them to file that. They’re throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. And so far nothing has stuck. I’m very happy.”

@kathryncargo

kathryn.cargo@mavs.uta.edu

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