Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No due process violations in taxi cab license disputes

The City cannot be sued under the due process clause for denying you a future taxicab license without a hearing. That's the holding in a Second Circuit case that once again reminds us that due process claims cannot survive if the government has discretion to reject certain licenses.

The case is Mordukhaev v. Daus, a summary order decided on January 17.You need a property interest in order to have a due process claim. The property interest is a creation of state law. If your entitlement is concrete and the government has little choice but to grant you the license, then its revocation must satisfy certain procedural safeguards. If the license may be revoked for discretionary reasons under state law, then there is not federal due process claim and your only remedy is probably a state court Article 78 petition.

The cab driver licenses may be denied for a variety of reasons. "The TLC retains significant discretion to deny a license based on subjective criteria. Foremost among these is the requirement that applicants for a license demonstrate 'good moral character.' The TLC also has discretion to determine whether an applicant’s 'physical condition' or 'knowledge of the city' is 'unsatisfactory,' and other provisions provide that the TLC 'may' renew a license or suspend or revoke a license." The plaintiffs used to have these licenses, but they were revoked. Although the City denied plaintiffs new licenses for lack of candor or honesty, poor driving records (among other reasons), these fell under the TLC's discretion. No federal due process claim can follow.

One plaintiff argues that his license was revoked in violation of the due process clause. This claim stands on a different footing than the others, who claimed they were denied a future license. Once you have the license, it cannot be denied on the basis of vague charges of misconduct or through an unfair process. The Court of Appeals (Hall, Chin and Hellerstein [D.J.] sides with the City.

"Here, the pre-deprivation hearing satisfied these basic requirements. It afforded Mordukhaev notice of the charges against him, an explanation of the evidence supporting those charges, and an opportunity for him to present his version of the events. And in any event, Mordukhaev was afforded sufficient post-deprivation process. After the Administrative Law Judge ('ALJ') revoked Mordukhaev’s license, Mordukhaev filed a counseled appeal of that decision to the TLC’s Chief ALJ, raising the very same issues he now advances in this appeal. That appeal was denied, but significantly, Mordukhaev did not pursue his challenge further via an Article 78 proceeding." Under the due process clause, this plaintiff got all the process that the Constitution requires.


Mediation Experts said...

A sigh of Relief for Many Taxi Drivers.

Anonymous said...

Abuse of discretion by the City/TLC, in any event, especially on the grounds that whether the City justly or unjustly revokes a taxi license they in turn [unlawfully] sell it as a new medallion for a lot of money ... yet selling something [the taxi license] that the City?TLC paid nothing for. Evidently, their greed-driven discriminatory rule to sell the taxi licenses [termed medallions] contradicts/conflicts with the private business enterprise and as such violates of the U.S. constitution, among other things.