Illinois Supreme Court Can’t Decide Chicago Red-Light Camera Case

The Illinois Supreme Court’s single-paragraph opinion in Keating v. City of Chicago, 2014 IL 116054 (11/20/14), is remarkable because the court was unable to render a decision.

The case involved the validity of Chicago’s red-light camera program [registered owner ticketed if the vehicle is photographed violating a red-light signal]. The First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed dismissal of the case (2013 IL App (1st) 112559-U, a Rule 23 non-precedential opinion) deferring to Chicago’s home-rule authority.

Several people who were ticketed and who paid the fines appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Two of the seven supreme court judges recused themselves from the case. (We don’t know why because they don’t tell us.)

The Illinois Constitution requires a concurrence of four supreme court judges to decide a case. But the remaining five judges apparently agreed they couldn’t muster four votes together, “so that it is not possible to secure the constitutionally required concurrence of four judges for a decision.”

So what happens when the supreme court can’t decide a case? “The effect of this dismissal is the same as an affirmance by an equally divided court of the decision under review but is of no precedential value.”