Lawyer questions dual roles of prosecutors, judges in city’s traffic court | Local News

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Buffalo is using school speed zone cameras, like this one on Delaware Avenue near Canisius High School, to catch speeders. (John Hickey/News file photo)

An attorney is asking how one person can serve as a prosecutor in the Buffalo Traffic Violations Agency and, at other times, as an administrative hearing officer – essentially an impartial judge – in the same agency.

“I don’t believe a lawyer can serve in both capacities and keep their license,” said Peter Reese, 76, a North Buffalo resident. “There are ethics decisions that make it very clear.”

Reese, who says he has successfully helped nine people at hearings contesting $50 citations that they received under the city’s School Zone Safety Program, will raise his concerns during the Common Council’s 1 p.m. Legislation Committee meeting Tuesday. He is also researching bringing a class action suit against the city.

Kevin J. Helfer, the city’s parking commissioner, also has been asked to attend, as has the attorney at the center of Reese’s concerns, said Delaware Council Member Joel P. Feroleto, committee chairman.

Reese argues that “in a traditional situation where you have effectively a trial common-law situation,” there is someone who presents the charges, someone who hears the charges and someone to defend.

“That’s a three-part game. Whoever hears them has to be impartial and independent,” Reese said.

“The judge can’t even communicate with the defense or prosecution to assist in any way. The reason is the judge would be making himself an agent of the prosecution or the defense, and that’s unacceptable,” Reese added. 

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