Latinos Assail Long Island Traffic Court

     CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) – Traffic court officials in Suffolk County conspired to try, issue arrest warrants for, and suspend the licenses of motorists for traffic offenses, a class claims in Federal Court.
     “I think this court is revenue driven,” Christopher Cassar, the Huntington, N.Y.-based attorney who filed the May 28 complaint, said in an interview. “I think the politicians created this court in the interest of creating revenue for the county and it is not interested in constitutional principles.”
     Cassar said the policies seem to be directed mainly to Latino drivers, but that the unconstitutionality of the traffic court is by no means exclusionary.
     Suffolk County has not returned a request for comment.
     Cassar represents Jose Medrano and two other locals being prosecuted by Suffolk County Traffic Court.
     A fourth plaintiff is an attorney who regularly practices in the court.
     “The defendants are depriving the plaintiffs and class members of due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by issuing arrest warrants for motorist[s] who fail to appear to answer a ‘simplified traffic information’ when ‘simplified traffic information’ does not contain ‘reasonable cause to believe’ a motorist committed the offense upon which the warrant is based,” the complaint states.
     One section of the 50-page filing complaint about the lacking ” separation of powers” between the traffic prosecutor and the judiciary in the Suffolk County Traffic Court.
     Medrano says the court’s executive director Paul Margiotta appoints the prosecutors.
     “I’ve never been in a [traffic] court where the executive director selects the [judicial hearing officers] and also selects the prosecutors,” Cassar said in an interview.
     The Suffolk County website says motorists who plead not guilty to traffic tickets are heard by judicial hearing officers, who determine whether the drivers are guilty and, if so, set fines.
     Cassar said he expects to seek damages in the millions, and that he has other drivers and even court attorneys coming forward to possibly join the class.