Last week, a Multnomah County circuit judge ruled that a TriMet employee violated a woman's rights by randomly stopping her and demanding to see proof of fare payment as she stepped off the train.
The decision by Judge John A. Wittmayer could curtail TriMet's fare enforcement operations—such as setting up corrals at MAX stations outside major events like Blazers games and checking to see if everybody leaving the train paid for a ticket.
Or not. The ruling isn't a binding precedent—it's up to other judges whether they will rely on it for guidance.
WW asked TriMet and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (who represented Ana del Rocío as she challenged her search in court) what happens next. TriMet says it will continue to perform random stops while it evaluates Wittmayer's opinion. The ACLU says it's about to seek a court order to halt random fare checks. So we asked a third party to weigh in.
Roberta Altstadt, spokeswoman for TriMet
"TriMet is still evaluating the judge's opinion in this case and determining what steps we may need to take in altering our fare enforcement activities, or not. Fares are still required on all TriMet buses and trains, and our fare enforcement activities continue."
Mat dos Santos, legal director for ACLU of Oregon
"Other cities avoid this issue altogether. Obviously, there are ways of collecting fare before you board. Because TriMet is pushing back so hard on this, we are already considering what the next case will be. There are also civil cases that we could bring, and soon [we may] seek a court order to prevent them from taking this kind of action, since there's already a judge who has said this is unconstitutional."
John Devlin, civil rights lawyer and former Multnomah County prosecutor
"The opinion of a circuit court judge is not binding to other circuit court judges, but it can be cited by them and it can be persuasive authority. The court's analysis of the case law would appear to apply more broadly than just to the facts of this case."
Correction: This post misstated Mat dos Santos' title. He is the ACLU of Oregon's legal director.