On June 6, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in NY state, unanimously upheld the Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to radically expand so-called street-hail taxi service beyond Manhattan, signaling a fundamental shift in New York City’s entrenched taxi culture. The decision permits a plan, which had been held in violation of New York’s […]
On May 20, the Supreme Court denied cert in Melancon et al v. City of New Orleans, a case coming out of the 5th Circuit challenging a massive re-regulation of the taxi industry in the Big Easy.
The taxi companies argued that the ordinances constituted a taking without just compensation. They had prevailed in the District Court before Judge Fallon, who issued an injunction. But the Fifth Circuit largely reversed. With the Supreme Court denying the cert petition the case, which argued that the city’s ordinances will likely wind up back in the district court, where some of the plaintiffs’ factually specific claims still have some life.
The District Court decision is here: http://media.nola.com/politics/other/Doc%2044.pdf
The 5th Circuit Decision is here: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/12/12-30921-CV0.wpd.pdf
On May 20, the Supreme Court denied cert in Melancon et al v. City of New Orleans, a case coming out of the 5th Circuit challenging a massive re-regulation of the taxi industry in the Big Easy. These ordinances banned the use of law enforcement vehicles, vehicles previously used as taxis in other jurisdictions, and […]
Back in 2010, the TLC announced what it termed a major scandal. Taxi drivers were, according to then Chairman Matthew Daus, routinely ripping off passengers by pressing the “Rate 4” button on their meters, thus charging the higher out-of-town rate instead of the city rate.
Almost as soon as the TLC announced the scale of the crime—the TLC said it totaled $8.3 million—it doubled back. Most of the time, the TLC said, the Rate 4 button was pressed at or near the end of the trip, so there really was no overcharge.
But still, there were $1.1 million in overcharges left over, the TLC said, and it started a prosecution offensive, filing charges against hundreds if not thousands of taxi drivers. Many of these drivers were convinced to surrender their licenses. Others paid thousands of dollars in fines so they could keep driving.
But now, the basis for these prosecutions has been undermined and it appears that the TLC had no evidence to support its allegations. A ruling by the TLC Appeals Tribunal has held that trip sheet evidence—computer generated documents that show only where a trip started and commenced and that the Rate 4 button was pressed—was sufficient to establish a violation. The reason was that the driver might have pressed the button by accident, or he may not have charged the meter rate. The TLC never had any complaints by passengers; it had no other proof! Without some evidence that the driver deliberately charged an excessive fare, the charges had to be dismissed.
Even if the evidence was adequate, I believe it was gathered in violation of the Constitution because the TLC relied completely on GPS tracking using devices that drivers are required by law to keep in their cars. And the United States Supreme Court has ruled that GPS tracking is a search, which can only be used if the government has a search warrant.
While some drivers and their advocates (me included) questioned the basis for the TLC’s Rate 4 prosecutions from the very beginning, the TLC Tribunal did not rule with any certainty until March. That ruling came in a case brought against a long-time taxi driver named Hassan El-Nahal. El-Nahal, like many drivers could have paid a fine of $900 and gone back to work. But because he did not want to plead guilty to an offense he did not commit, he insisted on a trial.
At first, El-Nahal went to the TLC court without a lawyer, and he was convicted. I handled his appeal and the Appeals Board reversed his conviction because the TLC’s proof was inadequate. But the Board allowed the TLC to filed the charges again, not once, but twice. After El-Nahal was required to go to court a half a dozen times— with the TLC presenting the same trip sheets as its only evidence each time— the Appeals Board dismissed the charges outright. El-Nahal can now go back to work.
But the struggle wreaked havoc on his health and upset his relationship with his garage. Because his license was revoked several times before it was finally restored, the emotional and financial turmoil in him has been tremendous. But at least he is now back on the road. But what about all the drivers still facing charges?
And what happens to those who have been prosecuted and, for fear of permanent license revocation, reached a plea bargain with TLC prosecutors? I believe that charges still pending should be dismissed. And even plea deals can be rescinded because, in offering the deal, the TLC misled drivers and is guilty of a pervasive fraud on cabdrivers who agreed to a deal.
During the legal process, the TLC told drivers that they had good evidence, evidence that had been sustained in court in a case against a driver named Cheema. But the fact is, this evidence had never been challenged or ruled valid because Cheema became a fugitive. Also, the TLC had much more evidence against Cheema than it did against other drivers. So the Cheema case was unique, not a model for prosecuting hundreds of other drivers.
Thus, based on the El-Nahal case and the Constitution, the TLC should restore the licenses it revoked and return the fines that the cabbies were forced to pay.
Back in 2010, the TLC announced what it termed a major scandal. Taxi drivers were, according to then Chairman Matthew Daus, routinely ripping off passengers by pressing the “Rate 4” button on their meters, thus charging the higher out-of-town rate instead of the city rate. Almost as soon as the TLC announced the scale of […]