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Judge Dismisses Case Against DC Taxicab Commission

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Judge Dismisses Case Against DC Taxicab Commission

Contact: Ted Gest, Public Information Officer (202) 727-6283

Washington, DC – A federal judge dismissed a challenge to a 2012 DC law and the DC Taxicab Commission’s regulations requiring the modernization of taxicabs in the District, including meter systems that accept non-cash payments and uniform dome lights indicating when a cab is occupied or available to accept a fare, DC Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan announced.

Six licensed taxi drivers and two passengers filed a lawsuit alleging that regulations to put the law into effect violated their constitutional rights as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The Court dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint yesterday, finding it failed to state any claim for statutory or constitutional violations.

On one of two constitutional issues, the Equal Protection Clause, US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle held that the rules governing the installation of meters accepting non-cash payments “are ‘facially neutral’ and there is no suggestion that they have been discriminatorily applied.” Further, she stated that the lawsuit failed “to allege any basis upon which to infer a plausible inference of discriminatory intent...”

The court also rejected the drivers’ Fourth Amendment challenge to the requirement that taxicabs be equipped with GPS technology that captures and reports the pick-up and drop-off locations for passenger trips.

Judge Huvelle agreed with the District’s argument that the GPS technology and data collection involves “no trespass and no infringement of a reasonable expectation of privacy.” Because the taxicab modernization did not result in a “search” or “trespass” by the government, the Fourth Amendment claim had no merit, the judge ruled.

Regarding the disability issue, the judge said that the lawsuit failed to plausibly allege that the Dome Light Regulation imposes a greater burden on drivers with a disability than it imposes on drivers without disabilities.

On the age discrimination question, the judge said the federal law applies to employers, and that the Taxicab Commission is not the drivers’ employer. Further, the drivers did not say how the dome light rule would place an “undue burden” on them, as they alleged, or how it is connected to their age.

Attorney General Nathan said, “We appreciate the court’s vindication of our city’s efforts to improve the efficiency, fairness and reliability of the taxicab service available to our citizens and visitors.”

The Attorney General commended Assistant Attorney General Douglas Rosenbloom for his handling of the case, supervised by Section Chief Grace Graham and Deputy Attorney General Ellen Efros of the Public Interest Division. Rosenbloom was assisted by Capital City Fellow attorney Lee S. Hagy and pro bono attorney Juan Jose Pedroza.