Louisville judge will rule in the next week on fate of 2,300 tra - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville judge will rule in the next week on fate of 2,300 traffic cases

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – A judge said Thursday he will decide in the next week whether to dismiss 2,300 traffic cases in which citizens have completed an online program run by the county attorney that does not require the payment of court costs and can be quickly expunged.

It was an anti-climactic ending to what was an unusual hearing, where a prominent judge and the county’s top prosecutor bickered for more than an hour, trading barbs and tense exchanges rarely seen on the record between court officials.

Jefferson District Court Judge Sean Delahanty is, according to County Attorney Mike O’Connell, the only judge in the state to hold up cases handled in traffic programs launched as revenue generators by county attorneys – even though the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled they are legal.

“These cases have been kept in limbo for years,” O’Connell said. “The mystery is why this court continues to defy the order of the state’s highest legal authority and substitute its judgment” for that of the General Assembly and Supreme Court.

For his part, Delahanty was upset in how the Jefferson County Attorney’s office presented, or failed to present, the program to judges two years ago, arguing they know very little about how it works. And he peppered O'Connell with dozens of questions, including where the funds generated are going and why the county attorney's program is any different or better than state traffic school.

While Delahanty has planned to make a ruling on the more than 2,300 postponed cases Thursday, he decided he needed additional information, including taking a look at exactly how the program works, and would rule in the next week.

O’Connell told the judge, in effect, his continued reservations about the program don’t really matter, that it has already been passed by the General Assembly and ruled on by the high court.

The judge responded that if he was “going to buy into dismissing cases, ultimately I have to be responsible for being fully aware of everything involved that qualifies for a person to have a case dismissed.”

At a few points during the hearing, breaks were called, in part because of rising tempers.  

At three different times, as O’Connell grew more agitated about the questioning, Delahanty suggested he let someone else on his staff take over. At one point, O’Connell loudly slammed something down on a desk in the courtroom.

“Mr. O’Connell, if you cannot control yourself, perhaps you would like one of your assistants to take over the argument,” Delahanty said. “If you are going to be throwing things around and … behaving inappropriately, perhaps calmer heads should take over control of this case.”

Most of the more than 2,300 pending cases involve speeding or disregarding a stop sign or traffic signal, while a few dozen were for careless driving or texting.

O'Connell said the people whose cases had come before Delahanty were receiving "unequal treatment," with some not even knowing the traffic charges hadn't yet been dismissed.

So far, about 15,000 traffic violators have paid a fee, taken the Drive Safe Louisville program and had their cases dismissed without paying court costs, not counting those pending in front of Judge Delahanty.

O'Connell is one of more than 80 county prosecutors who have launched traffic schools to raise revenue for their offices. The money is distributed to several recipients, including the county clerk,

Drivers charged in Jefferson County with any of 17 moving violations can pay $179 to take a two-hour, online class and get their citation dismissed.

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