Sunday, May 21, 2006

Kangaroo Court

What's wrong with this picture?

This is the hearing room for photo red light and photo radar school zone speeding notices.

From left, are Assistant City Clerk Lacresia Armijo-Rivera, City Administrative Hearing Officer Albert V. Chavez, Albuquerque Police Officer Joyce Montoya-Roach and Assistant City Attorney Dennica Padilla.

So what’s wrong with the picture?

I recently went to a city administrative hearing to speak on behalf of a friend who received a photo red light “notice.”

My reputation representing my fellow officers, city employees, friends and citizen’s interests, at city hearings when I was a union leader, seems to have preceded me.

When my friend‘s case was called we approached and Chavez challenged me by asking if I was an attorney. I answered no.

The hearing officer said he would not let me speak because that would be practicing law without a license. I pointed out that this was not a legal forum or a court and that Chavez’ own notice of hearing letter to my friend indicated, ”You or a representative of your choosing should be prepared at that time to present your case.”

He was undeterred. My lawyer friend Paul Livingston, who had agreed to back me up, just in case Chavez exercised a section of the ordinance allowing him to remove anyone from the hearing room, stepped forward.

Livingston argued forcefully to allow me to present the case that I had prepared. He said Chavez was wrong about non-lawyers not being permitted to represent people before city administrative hearing officers.

Chavez, on his own motion, wanted to continue the case and postponed it to a later date.

Now it might sound reasonable that Chavez finds that I would be practicing law without a license, except for several things: I would not be. I have represented the interests of all city employees before similar city administrative hearing officers. Specifically, I have represented over a hundred individuals before: the city’s labor-management relations board; the Personnel Board; the police oversight commission; the ethics board; city council committees and the full council.

But there is another point closer to the table. APD Officer Montoya-Roach is not a lawyer but she is representing the city of Albuquerque as more than just a witness, more than an advocate. She pretty much ran the show in the cases prior to ours. She argued with respondents, lecturing them on the law, physics, their attitude and advised them of the hearing and payment process. She went so far as to call Chavez, “Your Honor,” an ingratiating term that he, unlike a judge, is neither entitled to, or is constitutionally allowed.

Also, another curiosity was the presence of Assistant City Attorney Padilla, who stated her reason for being present was to observe because she was going to make recommendations for changing the ordinance. She did not enter her appearance in the matter.

Only two people, by protocol, should be allowed to sit on the far side of the table; the hearing officer and the clerk; though the clerk should sit in a more subservient position, like… at the end of the table.

To allow the police officer and the “non-participating” assistant city attorney to also sit on the far side has them crossing the line. They move from being advocates at the bar, equal to the respondent, in what should, at least appear to be, a neutral proceeding. They display what is really going on; a kangaroo court.

Come in, make some noise, look at the video and pay your $100 within 20-days. Thank you very much, now go-away. Justice served… not in this room!

Stand by. There will be plenty more on this topic.


Lee said...

I received a photo school zone Notice of Violation on March 17. I requested a hearing, and when 90 days had expired I had to contact the Office of Boards and Commissions to find out when a hearing was going to be scheduled. Now, it's finally scheduled for next week. In addition to the dispute I have of the accusation (supposedly 21 mph in a 15 zone-- The photo shows that I'm right at the entry to the school zone with a glowing brake light. Further, I am one of two vehicles in the the center of the field of view and the angle is at least 20 degrees) all that said I doubt the precision of the measurement as well as the accuracy of which vehicle is being measured, I think the evidence shows clear intent and action to obeserve the posted speed, and far from conclusive proof that I wasn't. I hope a have a reasonable case, but that's not the point here anyway. I would like to know what capacity this hearing has legally. I understand that if an officer presents me a citation which I believe to be incorrect, I have recourse to have my case heard by a judge, who is elected/appointed and duly authorized to pass a judgement. Here, I seem to have a hearing before someone who is employed by one of the disputing parties. I don't really understand where this lands legally. It seems that if I disagree with the City Administrative Hearing Officer's decision I still have a right to have my case heard in a court of law. Am I mistaken? If the CAHO is not a judge, what power does he have other than perhaps the city's decision to drop the charge? If I am grossly ignorant here, my apologies, and please explain it to me. I'm an engineer by training not an attorney, so I certainly could be missing something, but I thought I understood my business law class. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Lee said...

I forgot to mention that I am dismayed to see in the paper work that the chief of police has decided to dedicate the police force to making profit for a company in Phoenix, and Ohio. I can only assume that the company in Toledo makes a healthy cut off of every fine, and somehow marketed the city that this program would "boost revenue" and that drivers are somehow less likely to contest a ticket because there is a picture. So we've contracted our police force which is supported by the citizens to spend some of its time generating revenue for some out of state company.

Bill White said...

Mr. Bralley: My name is Bill White and I also have questions regarding the Constitutionality of this program. I am in possession of documents showing an instance of a school zone citation which was issued when school was closed. I am currently seeking additional documents from the City under the "Inspection of Public Records Act." I don't want to take undue advantage of your blog, but I would appreciate it if you would point any people with a story to tell in my direction. Regards, WHW

daw said...

re: Bill White/school zone citation posting
I(or my son)rec'd 11mph photo speed violation citation in school zone @ 11:00am on Federal Holiday (Labor Day) which he will be contesting tomorrow, Oct 30th @9:00a hearing. Will post any interesting info as to what happens. Thus far we have been unable to find any attorney willing to even discuss this matter with us, but I too question the Constitutionality of these things.

daw said...

update to school zone violation--son was told the evidence proves your guilt--you have 20 days to pay up! daw