Jefferson County Attorney challenges judges fighting his traffic program
Mike O'Connell has requested a Circuit Court judge to force two district judges to comply with O'Connell's Drive Safe Louisville program
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell on Tuesday asked a circuit court judge to order two district judges to allow traffic offenders to have their cases dismissed through O’Connell’s Drive Safe Louisville program.
In October, District Court Judge Sean Delahanty ruled that the online traffic program run by the county attorney that does not require the payment of court costs is unconstitutional.
And District Court Judge Stephanie Burke agreed, joining Delahanty in not allowing traffic offenders who come before them to have their cases dismissed after completion of the program.
On Tuesday, O’Connell asked Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin to overturn Delahanty’s order and force the two judges to allow the program to be run through their courts.
The judges have “acted erroneously and contrary to law,” according to O’Connell’s motion. Burke has told prosecutors the program is “illegal” and unconstitutional, according to the motion. Both judges have discouraged drivers from participating in the program, O’Connell wrote.
Delahanty had been the lone local judge holding out on agreeing to dismiss cases handled in traffic programs launched as revenue generators by county attorneys – even though the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled they are legal. Burke joined him after his October ruling.
Delahanty did agree to dismiss more than 2,300 cases in which prosecutors had already agreed to drop the traffic charge if citizens completed the program.
O'Connell said in a statement in October that "no matter what Judge Delahanty opines in this opinion, the program is valid and may be operated in any county where the county attorney deems it appropriate. And we will continue to operate it here in Jefferson County, as it is a benefit to public safety and those looking for ways to resolve their cases."
In his October ruling, Delahanty maintained that the statute passed by the General Assembly to allow the traffic programs "was rushed into implementation and is constitutionally flawed." The law "negates or unreasonably limits" the authority of the district court judges to use their own discretion in sentencing, he ruled.
And Delahanty wrote that he is also concerned about ethical issues involving the program, including the Louisville Metro Police Department telling traffic offenders about "Drive Safe Louisville." The county attorney’s office also sends letters to charged drivers when traffic citations are issued, telling them about DSL.
"The Court has serious concerns about the propriety of such actions by the County Attorney and persons acting on his behalf in contacting litigants directly despite being represented by counsel," according to the ruling.
The county attorney's office had by October made an estimated $1,275,000 through the dismissal of citations, according to 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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