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West Hollywood Chronology 2002 - 2004

The Beverly Hills courtroom which was the scene of some of Culver City's detoured trials (Oct. 2002), is also the regular venue for both the City of West Hollywood and the City of Beverly Hills' red light camera tickets.  Trials of the WeHo tickets are held on Thursday mornings.  I attended for my first time on Oct. 24, 2002. On that morning one West Hollywood defendant demonstrated to Comm. Hugh Bobys (retired as of 2004) that the yellow at one intersection was too short, and Comm. Bobys let him go - not guilty!  The judge also said something about asking the DA to have the signals adjusted.  On Nov. 11 the City provided me with copies of their signal timing charts, and those charts did not reflect any recent lengthening of the yellows.  Perhaps it was done shortly after the charts were copied for me.  City Prosecutor Lisa A. Vidra (who also is Culver City's prosecutor) has assured me that the signals have been adjusted.  But in West Hollywood it's easy to find out what the yellow interval is - the camera system used there actually imprints the programmed yellow time right on the ticket.
Added 6-12-03, updated 6-16-03:
On June 12 a Los Angeles Times article announced that Comm. Bobys had dismissed a number of West Hollywood tickets, because of the yellow being too short (June 12, page B1).
But later on the same day the article was published, Comm. Bobys heard a 40-minute argument by the City's red light prosecutor (William Litvak, whose firm fills that position for a number of cities) which convinced him to reverse himself, and not dismiss any more tickets because the yellow is too short.  Comm. Bobys said:  "As I said I looked at the CalTrans manual myself, last year, on the Internet.  It was quite clear to me that the duration set by the CalTrans standard was 3.5 seconds in a 35 mile-an-hour zone.  It's beyond me how one is expected to comply with a manual which you can't find out what it actually says.  Or it's very difficult to do so.   No continuances for rulings on traffic tickets.  I'm not going to take this under submission.  I've already given it a great deal of thought.  I do agree with Mr. Litvak's argument.  I am going to accept the argument that actually 3.0 seconds is the minimum below which the Legislature intended as a floor below which the traffic departments of the various cities could not go.  I might be wrong.  If you feel like you would like to appeal my decision Mr. Ramirez, I would have no quarrel.  I am persuaded by Mr. Litvak's arguments as to substantial compliance, the intention - there's certainly no bad faith.   I am truly concerned what the impact would be.  I think he's right.  I don't think the legislature wanted to take over the business of micromanaging traffic flow throughout the State of California."
(Transcribed from official audio tape of June 12 hearing.  For a lengthy WeHo trial transcript, see the link in WeHo - More, below.)
(During his long appearance before Comm. Bobys, Prosecutor Litvak cited at least 11 document exhibits as the foundation for his arguments as to the legislature's intent, etc.  A couple days later I asked the court if I could look at the exhibits, and was told that they had not been retained - they had been returned to Mr. Litvak.)
In another article the following day, The Times wrote:
"But West Hollywood officials say they have no intention of reviewing closed cases and refunding fines, which they estimate would cost about $4 million."  (Times, June 13, page B4.)
Although the article didn't say as much, City officials may have wanted us to assume that the City could not afford to make refunds.
Their actual bank balance sheets say otherwise. 

July 2002:
Total Investments: $31,906,455
Apr. 2003:
Total Investments: $48,587,510

The City of West Hollywood is rich, and rapidly getting richer.
The scans above are from City Treasurer's reports, a public document.  In case the images are not clear enough for you to read, the figures are:
July 2002:  $31,906,455
Apr. 2003:  $48,587,510

June 16, 17 and 19, 2003, At the Courthouse
On June 16 and 17, I observed one morning and two afternoon sessions, but not including any 'not guilty' trials of WeHo tickets (which are held on Thursday mornings).  I plan to observe some of those in the near future.
 During my visit to the courthouse, I talked to a lot of defendants and many of them showed me their tickets.
The first thing I noticed was that you can't read the numbers on the tickets that WeHo mails to defendants.  The very critical tenths digit is a smaller font size, so no one could tell for sure how late they were after the red, or how long the yellow was.  The tenths digits were not legible on any ticket I saw - and we looked at them in good sunlight, with as many as two pairs of reading glasses at once!  A
sample ticket posted by the West Hollywood sheriff illustrates the illegibility very well.
I also noticed that many of Comm. Bobys' policies are different from those of Comm. Amado of Culver City, whose court I have attended a lot.
If you ask for extra time to pay the fine, Comm. Bobys will give you a few months, whereas Comm. Amado will allow you 11 or 12 months.  Comm. Bobys allows 'second offender' (12-hour) traffic school, Comm. Amado does not.  If you ask for Community Service, it is 47 hours in Comm. Bobys' court, versus 51 in Comm. Amado's.  That difference is probably due to the hourly wage being higher in Beverly Hills. I also noticed that in Comm. Bobys' courtroom they do not play a City-produced red light camera video prior to the trials, as they do in Culver City.
Comm. Bobys has on his bench (as does Comm. Amado) a computer terminal linked directly to the company that issues and archives the tickets.  The terminal gives him instant access to the company's digital copies of ticket photos.  At arraignment, when a defendant tells him "It's not me," he is often able to dismiss the ticket "on the spot."

I attended the June 19 trial session for West Hollywood tickets, and purchased a copy of the official tape of that session ($10.00).
The first part of the tape has now been transcribed, and is available here: 
WeHo Trial Transcript
It is a good way to find out how an actual trial goes.

June 27, 2003:  The "WeHo" Amendment !
On July 8 the author of Assembly Bill 1022 amended it in an attempt to clarify that CalTrans' minimum yellows must be complied with.  Unfortunately, such an amendment will have little effect, as
"Truth in Evidence" will prevail.  See the Action page.

April 2004:  New Judge in WeHo
Comm. Bobys has retired.  The new judge is the Hon. Julius M. Title.