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Judge rejects arguments against video cameras in Metrolink locomotives

June 3, 2011 |  1:53 pm

Camera A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has dismissed allegations in a lawsuit filed by Metrolink engineers who challenged the installation of video cameras in locomotive cabs after the deadly Chatsworth crash in 2008.

Judge Luis A. Lavin found no evidence that the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, which operates the five-county commuter rail service, had violated its engineers' constitutional rights to privacy and due process. The decision was issued Wednesday.

"Metrolink's goal is to be the safest passenger railroad in the country," said Richard Katz, the rail authority's board chairman. "We're pleased that the state courts have joined the federal courts in allowing our pioneering camera program to move forward."

The railroad equipped its locomotive cabs with cameras in October 2009 following the Chatsworth accident that killed 25 people and injured more than 100. The head-on collision with a Union Pacific freight train was largely blamed on a Metrolink engineer who ran a red signal while texting on his cellphone.

Lavin's ruling canceled a June 13 trial date in the case that was brought two years ago by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a rail union. A hearing on his ruling is scheduled for June 20.

The judge ruled that the engineers were not denied due process under their collective bargaining agreement because the railroad's disciplinary procedures did not change after the cameras were installed. He also ruled that the union could not establish that the cameras represented a "true abuse of power," a requirement for a due-process violation.

The judge also dismissed the privacy-invasion allegation, saying that the union cannot reasonably expect to establish that the cameras are highly offensive and violate social norms. Lavin also said the camera installation was prompted by the legitimate goals of protecting the public and determining the cause of any accident.

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-- Dan Weikel

Photo: One of two inward-facing cameras in the locomotive cabin of a Metrolink train. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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