Des Moines Court faces increased case load from city’s red light cameras

By Jack Mayne

Judge Lisa Leone – in her second state of the city court address on May 11 – said the mission of the court is to provide fair, impartial and timely administration of justice while being “respectful to all.”

In her report to the Des Moines City Council, Judge Leone said the mission statement for the court says it “will respect the dignity of every person, regardless of race, class, gender or other characteristic, apply the law appropriately to the circumstances of individual cases, and include judges and court staff who reflect the community’s diversity.”

It was acclaimed as accomplishing that standard when it was under the leadership of now King County Superior Court Judge Veronica Alicea-Galvan until the end of 2015.

Now City Manager Michael Matthias says Judge Lisa Leone has maintained and improved on the high standards that Judge Galvan set.

In her annual report to the Council (download .ppt here), Judge Leone said she and her 10-person staff are maintaining the high standards while the court workload has increased 300 percent in case filings due to implementation of traffic safety cameras – often called “red light cameras.”

The impact of the cameras was “much greater than we anticipated,” she told Council.

The judge said she was “so impressed with every single” member of her staff.

“Just today (May 11) there was a line out the door … every clerk was on the phone taking the time for every one who has questions about the cameras or anything else.”

Anger management
Judge Leone said the court has added anger management therapy for people with chronic substance abuse or anger management problems. The eight-week course is provided at cost to those who need it.

Leone said the program was needed and this was “the most cost effective way of doing it.”

The court also has a Department of Corrections work crew alternative to jail time.

Case management and security of the court has also been increased. The court is working to upgrade security standards to meet State Supreme Court requirements.

“We probably will need some funding” to meet the requirements, she said.

The judge told the City Council that automated receipting for online payments is in the process of being implemented.

She said she is going to ask the city to increase the probation officer to full time because of the added manpower in the Des Moines Police Department that, in turn, has added cases to the court.


14 Responses to “Des Moines Court faces increased case load from city’s red light cameras”
  1. Julie says:

    Red light camera is paying off. About time! Getting truly tired of cars cutting off traffic. Those bad drivers entering Des Moines from Marine View Drive and cutting off traffic that should be taking right turns only onto 7th. Long over due. Surprised their is not more road rage. Using downtown Des Moines as a race course. Their are many people who walk, bike, push strollers, walk pets.. so happy to see all the cross walks but you still need to watch out for those who don’t want to take the time to stop. We need all the revenue we can get. You should give them thank you cards as they pay fines.

  2. BirchCreek says:

    I am still mystified by the thumbs down responses to the Red Light Camera conversations. If you are a law abiding citizen, you have nothing to worry about.
    If you are worried about “Big Brother” watching you, then you may have an over-inflated sense of your own importance and you may have mental health issues you need to work on.
    If you believe you can drive the way you want and damn everyone else, well then your personality disorder may need treatment with some anti-psychotics.
    Just saying…

  3. Red light cameras produce profits above their own high costs ONLY when most of the tickets go to safe drivers who endangered no one. The most common scam is to locate the cameras where the yellow intervals are already slightly too short for the actual perception/reaction times and actual approach speeds of at least 85% of the drivers. Typically, this means the yellow intervals are about one second too short. Then when you see the research that about 80% of the violations are in the first second of red, and realize that the drivers who violate the red by up to one second clear the intersections during the all red phase plus the short start up delay for the cross traffic – you understand how the for-profit racket of red light cameras actually works to produce profits.

    If cameras ticketed only dangerous drivers, no one would object, but then there would be no red light cameras because they would lose too much money and cities won’t use the cameras unless they produce profits. The cameras are a pure money-grab racket.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

    • DMResident says:

      I think you should go into DMPD like I did and ask for a lesson on the system and how they work. The information you are spewing about the cameras in Des Moines is completely inaccurate.

      • For DMResident
        I have been repeatedly in touch with Iowa DOT officials for several years. So far, they have not set up mandatory rules requiring adequately-long yellow intervals on the lights (as only California and Virginia have done for camera intersetions). Neither federal nor most state rules require properly long yellow intervals for the actual conditions – a fact that makes predatory for-profit red light cameras even possible financially. I am an expert in this area with many years of experience. I know how the cameras work, and they are for profits, not safety. But enforcement for profits is 100% wrong, 100% of the time.

        The best result is for red light cameras to be illegal, as they are in several states. Then authorities in places like Des Moines no longer have any financial incentives to deliberately leave or set the yellow intervals for more tickets and more revenue.

        James C. Walker

  4. Shelia Dunn says:

    Any sort of automatic traffic enforcement does not allow for due process as stated under the US Constitution and generally is a money grab by municipalities. Stop the Red-Light Cameras in Des Moines and the work load for the amazing folks in Judge Leone’s court will go back down to a more reasonable level.

    • DMResident says:

      Uhm, I think the due process part comes in the court system. If it was an officer giving you a ticket then you’d think you received due process at that point?

      • For DMResident in reply to Shelia
        Camera tickets operate under a different system of due process – which should be properly called “with absolutely no rights of due process”. When an officer gives you a ticket, you have the right in court to cross examine the officer about the facts and circumstances of the ticket.
        With all due respect, HOW do you cross examine a mechanical camera on the stand and expect to get any responsive answers? You don’t, and that is a key part of the for-profit racket of ticket cameras. You are guilty until proven innocent, and then guilty anyway.

        Red light and speed cameras are for profit money grab rackets that would be illegal under RICO racketeering statutes – if governments were not one of the racketeers.

        James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

        • DM Resident says:

          I would say your evidence or evidence for the City would be the video of the vehicle failing to stop? If the vehicle stops and the infraction was issued in error then the judge or prosecutor will dismiss the ticket. If the video indicates the vehicle ran the light then the judge would enter a finding of committed for the infraction. This is no different than any infraction except that it’s actually on video. Seems to me in this day that would tend to satisfy people where there is actually video evidence.

  5. RedondoRick says:

    My concerns along with the overcrowded court system was the monthly city manager’s report. For the month of February, and I quote: the month of February, the officers spent 158 hours reviewing photo enforcement violations, unquote. Due to the thin line of police officers that DMPD have, can we afford to take officers off the street to watch photo violations? This was up until now, the only month that was listing this information.

    The addition of these Red Light Cameras are for revenue producing only. The areas where these cameras were installed, had little problems of safety or accident prone locations. But I would rather see the officers patrolling the streets, than watching films…

  6. Pat Nardo says:

    The shortage of police in Des Moines makes this “red light” camera system a very welcome addition to our Des Moines. It instills a compelling reason to pay more attention to th good driving skills learned to obtain your license in the first place. No more “Hollywood stops” and no cutting off by fearless drivers. The revenue is also put to good use, I believe. Our Des Moines City Council should be lauded for this community service.

  7. Pat Nardo says:

    We strongly support Mayor Matt Pina for re-election to positon #01 on the Des Moines City Council.
    There are many compelling reasons to support Mayor Matt Pina who has been at the forefront of our city’s recovery and renewed prosperity. As a leader of one of the best teams of council members in my recollection, Matt Pina has done, and continues, doing a magnificent job of bringing our Des Moines into a future that was not envisioned by previous leadership.
    Thanks to the diligent pursuit of advancing our budget from deficit to one of sustenance , we are now no longer facing the dragon of bankruptcy; our police force is now more of a force, and businesses are discovering this jewel of potential wealth ; Des Moines. One need only view the spate of construction, new living accommodations, and large enterprises seeking a share in our progress to appreciate the leadership shown by our city council under the leadership of Mayor Matt Pina.
    As Mayor of the City of Des Moines, and candidate for re-election to position #01 on our city council, it would be an inordinately unwise move to change this horse in mid-stream. My vote and the vote of as many friends as can be mustered will be to retain this exceptional leader for the continued success we are experiencing. Matt Pina’s position cannot and should not be filled by an apprentice. My opinion, my vote.

  8. David Matthews says:

    The red light camera in the right lane heading west on Kent Des Moines Road is illegal. It is an exit lane and is not at the intersection. This camera violates the RCW requirement that red light camera’s have to be at intersections or school zones. They put the stop line several yards east of Pacific Highway to trick drivers. Even worse when you contest by mail you might not get a real judge. My judgement was from a Judge Pro-Tem which means a lawyer can make a judgement if they take an oath. Faamomoi P Masaniai Jr ruled in my case and all he did was check a box and sign his abbreviated name. I doubt he even read my defense because he didn’t respond to it. Do you really want people to avoid Des Moines because of their violation of state law?

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