Friday, March 24, 2006

Stung Cabbies Sting Back - Padberg v. McGrath-McKechnie

On March 6, 2006, on the eve of trial, the City of New York and its Taxi and Limousine Commission announced a settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by 500 cabbies concerning the TLC’s so-called “Operation Refusal.”



The cabbies alleged that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, led by Rudolph Giuliani and its chairwoman Diane McGrath-McKechnie, suspended hack licenses unconstitutionally and revoked them illegally during the course of the TLC’s so-called “Operation Refusal,” the sting operation ordered by the mayor and the chairwoman in the wake of a highly publicized complaint by the actor Danny Glover.



The former mayor and the TLC pretended that cabbies whose licenses were suspended were acting out of “bigotry” or racial bias. Evidence unearthed during discovery proved that this claim was a con. The overwhelming majority of alleged service refusals – then and now – are based on destination and economics, not race. TLC officials, of course, were well aware of this fact.



The cabbies alleged that the revocation of their licenses violated city law, and that the policy was enacted illegally and in secret, without public notice or hearings of any kind. They also allege that McGrath-McKechnie pursued her scheme despite clear warnings that what she was doing is illegal.



The penalties were enforced by TLC judges, in the TLC’s own kangaroo court. That court was systemically biased against drivers, the cabbies allege. The judicial bias claim would have been the key issue for the jury, had the trial gone forward.



Of course, with the settlement, the trial will not go forward.



The settlement, though, is pretty good:



--Cabbies whose licenses were suspended will be paid $121.50 per day for the duration of their suspensions. About 500 cabbies were suspended and the average suspension lasted 62 days.



--Cabbies whose licenses were revoked will be paid an additional $26,000 each.



--The TLC will refund all fines paid during the course of Operation Refusal.



--The City will pay the cabbies attorneys’ fees and court costs.



The settlement received some press attention, both locally and nationally via the AP.



Here is a compendium of the coverage:







NEW YORK DAILY NEWS



Hacks pick up 7M in ride-bias battle





The city agreed yesterday to a $7 million settlement with more than 500 cabbies who charged their licenses were improperly suspended for refusing to pick up minority passengers.

A federal judge in Brooklyn had already ruled the policy of confiscating the hack licenses of medallion cab drivers without a hearing was unconstitutional.

After actor Danny Glover publicly complained in November 1999 that he had trouble hailing a cab because he's black, the NYPD launched a crackdown against drivers, using undercover cops trying to hail cabs.

"They threw out the Constitution so they could look good on a hot-button issue," said cabbies' lawyer Daniel Ackman.

Under the settlement, the city will pay drivers $121.50 for each day they were suspended and $26,000 to each driver whose license was revoked while the policy was in effect from November 1999 to April 2002.

"The settlement addresses an enforcement policy that was in place for a limited time nearly seven years ago," Taxi and Limousine Commission Chairman Matthew Daus said in a statement.

He noted that recent tests found a 97% driver-compliance rate in pickups.

John Marzulli






NEW YORK POST

'STUNG' HACKS WIN

By JEREMY OLSHAN

After letting the meters run for six years, the city yesterday agreed to settle a federal class-action lawsuit and pay 100 cabdrivers whose hack licenses were revoked during an aggressive sting operation.

The drivers were targeted as part of Operation Refusal, in which undercover agents posed as minority passengers trying to hail a cab.

Each driver will get $26,000 as part of the settlement.

The lawsuit accused the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission of removing their licenses without a hearing.

But that punishment is normally reserved only for a third offense. Another 500 drivers, whose licenses were suspended an average of 62 days, will receive $121.50 per day, making the total settlement worth $6.3 million.

Beginning in 1999, after actor Danny Glover complained about bias among cabbies, the penalty enforcement was changed to include instant revocation.

"A fair hearing was impossible, as the judges were hired, fired, and paid for by the TLC," said Daniel Ackman, attorney for the drivers.

Operation Refusal is still in effect, although the penalties are now fines for the first two offenses.






NEW YORK SUN

City To Settle Lawsuit Brought by Cab Drivers Caught in TLC Stings

By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
March 7, 2006

The city will pay more than $6 million to settle a lawsuit brought by about 500 cab drivers who claim they were punished unfairly amid allegations they avoided black customers and refused fares.

Former and current cab drivers are represented in the class action lawsuit brought in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn yesterday. The settlement, which has yet to be filed with the court, comes six years after the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission expanded existing sting operations to identify drivers who were avoiding minority customers.

The legal complaint does not dispute that it is often difficult for black men to get a cab. It contends that the TLC courts stripped cab drivers of their constitutional rights.

"I would say there are some racial biases among cab drivers like there are among all people," the attorney representing the drivers, Daniel Ackman, told The New York Sun. "But they never proved anybody had a racial bias. They never attempted to prove it."

The cab drivers had their taxis impounded and their licenses pulled after they allegedly ignored black investigators posing as customers or refused to drive to specific destinations, the complaint accompanying the lawsuit states.

The power exercised by investigators who seized cabs and took licenses exceeded the penalties permitted by New York City law, the complaint states. And the courts of the Taxi and Limousine Commission were stacked against cab drivers, according to the complaint. The TLC legal department held sway over TLC-paid judges who ruled against cab drivers protesting their suspension, the complaint states.

Mr. Ackman estimates that only 15% of his clients were prosecuted in TLC courts after allegedly passing by a black investigator hailing a cab for a white investigator doing the same. The rest were prosecuted for other fare refusals.

The ongoing Taxi and Limousine Commission sting operation, called Operation Refusal, was expanded following a complaint by actor Danny Glover. Mr. Glover, who is black, filed a complaint in 1999 with the TLC, claiming he had difficulty in finding a ride in New York City. Mayor Giuliani, who is named as a defendant in the suit, lauded the operation, which promised at the time to cut down on the reputed racial biases of drivers.

A spokesman for the TLC, Allan Fromberg, declined to comment on the lawsuit except to convey a brief statement by current TLC Commissioner, Matthew Daus.

"The settlement addresses an enforcement policy that was in place for a limited time nearly seven years ago, and has no effect upon the TLC's successful refusal enforcement efforts which currently have 97% driver compliance," the statement said.

Neither Mr. Fromberg nor a spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department, Kate Ahlers, would discuss the terms or amount of the settlement.

Mr. Ackman said the agreement calls for about 100 drivers who had their licenses revoked to receive payments of $26,000. Those former drivers and another 400 would also receive $121.50 for each day their license was suspended before it was either revoked or returned. Mr. Ackman said the average suspension was 62 days.

The 26-year career of the lead plaintiff, John Padberg, ended quickly, over the course of three blocks in Queens. After noticing a woman hailing him from a full three blocks away, he passed a black man he hadn't noticed but who was signaling for a fare, Mr. Padberg told The New York Sun. After the woman identified herself as an investigator, he was forced to return home without his cab or license. He is now a limousine driver.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



THE NEW YORK TIMES



March 8, 2006

New York City to Pay Settlement to Taxi Drivers Accused of Bias
By THOMAS J. LUECK



CORRECTION APPENDED



A long legal fight over a city crackdown on cabdrivers, prompted by a black actor's 1999 complaint of racial bias, has ended in an agreement to pay about 500 cabbies whose licenses were suspended or revoked, lawyers on both sides of the case said yesterday.

Under the agreement, termed a "settlement in principle" by Paula Van Meter, a lawyer for the city, about $7 million from the city will go to the cabbies, who were penalized without having been granted hearings for showing bias toward passengers, refusing to take them to certain locations or other violations.

The cabbies were penalized by the Taxi and Limousine Commission from late 1999 through early 2002 under Operation Refusal, an enforcement tactic begun after the actor Danny Glover complained that five taxis had refused to stop for him because he is black. The accusation attracted national attention.

Operation Refusal remains in force, but a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled a year ago that the city had violated due process by suspending cabbies' hack licenses without first granting hearings. The settlement was reached on Monday in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of drivers who claimed financial damages.

Dan Ackman, a lawyer for the cabbies, said former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani; the former Taxi and Limousine Commission chairwoman, Diane McGrath-McKechnie; and the commission's current chairman, Matthew W. Daus, were named as defendants, and were expected to testify at a trial that had been scheduled to begin next Monday.

"The settlement addresses an enforcement policy that was in place for a limited time nearly seven years ago," Mr. Daus said, adding that agreement had no effect upon the taxi commission's current enforcement efforts. The agency continues to use about 200 staff officers, posing as civilians, who hail taxis and check for illegal refusals.

Under the settlement, Mr. Ackman said, about 500 drivers will receive $121.50 apiece for each day their licenses were suspended. About 100 of those drivers, whose licenses were revoked after the suspensions, will each receive an additional $26,000, and can apply for new licenses, he said.

Correction: March 10, 2006, Friday An article on Wednesday about a settlement between New York City and about 500 cabdrivers whose licenses were suspended or revoked during a crackdown on racial bias and other violations misstated the timing of a judge's ruling that the city had violated the cabbies' rights. It was in 2002, not a year ago.



Associated Press



NYC to Settle Suit Filed by Cab Drivers
By ELIZABETH LeSURE , 03.06.2006, 11:52 PM



The AP Story was picked up by The LA Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Newsday, The Philadelphia Daily News, The Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Post Intelligencer and other papers.



Hundreds of taxi drivers who were accused of discrimination and lost their driving privileges settled a class-action lawsuit against the city, their lawyer said Monday.

The cabbies' licenses were suspended or revoked as part of a crackdown on those who wouldn't pick up passengers because of their race, gender or other factors.

The city's effort began in November 1999 after "Lethal Weapon" actor Danny Glover filed a complaint with the Taxi & Limousine Commission because he was passed by several available taxis.

In the lawsuit, filed in 2000, attorney Dan Ackman argued that the drivers' licenses were seized and revoked without due process of the law and that the commission's taxi court was biased and unconstitutional.

A judge ruled in 2002 that the suspension policy was unconstitutional; additional allegations involving the taxi court and the revocation policy were set to go to trial on Monday before the settlement was reached, Ackman said.

The city's law department said it had "reached a settlement in principal" and was working to finalize the agreement. Ackman said the settlement must be approved by a federal judge.

Under the settlement, about 500 drivers each will get $121.50 for each day they were suspended, Ackman said. The suspensions averaged 62 days, he said.

About 100 drivers whose licenses were revoked after the suspensions will receive an additional $26,000 each and will be allowed to apply for new licenses, Ackman said.

The commission also will refund fines it collected from the drivers, he said.

Under the current Operation Refusal, drivers are issued summonses if they are accused of discrimination but are not penalized until after they appear in taxi court, the commission said.

"The settlement addresses an enforcement policy that was in place for a limited time nearly seven years ago and has no effect upon the TLC's successful refusal enforcement efforts," the commission's chairman, Matthew Daus, said in a statement.



1010 WINS Radio

Posted: Monday, 06 March 2006 10:27PM

NYC to Settle Cab Driver Discrimination Suit

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- The city has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of taxi drivers whose licenses were suspended or revoked as part of a crackdown on those who wouldn't pick up passengers because of their race.

The cabbies were penalized as part of an anti-discrimination effort that began in November 1999 after "Lethal Weapon'' actor Danny Glover, who is black, filed a complaint with the Taxi & Limousine Commission because he was passed by several available taxis.

Under the settlement, about 500 drivers each will get $121.50 for each day they were suspended, said their lawyer, Dan Ackman. The suspensions averaged 62 days, he said.

About 100 drivers whose licenses were revoked after the suspensions will receive an additional $26,000 each and will be allowed to apply for new licenses, Ackman said.

The TLC also will refund fines it collected from the drivers, he said.

In the lawsuit, filed in 2000, Ackman argued that the drivers' licenses were seized and revoked without due process of the law and that the TLC's taxi court was biased and unconstitutional.

A judge ruled in 2002 that the suspension policy was unconstitutional; additional allegations involving taxi court and the revocation policy were set to go to trial on Monday before the settlement was reached, Ackman said.

The drivers were suspended as part of an enhanced version of a program called Operation Refusal. During the crackdown, the city automatically suspended the licenses of drivers who were accused of discrimination before they appeared in taxi court to answer the charges.

The crackdown was aimed at drivers who did not pick up passengers based on their race or gender or refused to go to certain locations, usually in poor minority neighborhoods or areas outside Manhattan.

The lead plaintiff in the case was John Padberg, who was driving down Queens Boulevard when he was hailed by two undercover inspectors, a white woman and a black man. Padberg picked up the white woman, and when she asked him why he hadn't stopped for the black man he told her she had hailed him first, Ackman said.

About 86 percent of those who were suspended during the crackdown pleaded guilty or were convicted of the allegations against them, he said. Padberg was convicted.

Under the current Operation Refusal, drivers are issued summonses if they are accused of discrimination but are not penalized until after they appear in taxi court, the TLC said.

"The settlement addresses an enforcement policy that was in place for a limited time nearly seven years ago and has no effect upon the TLC's successful refusal enforcement efforts, which currently have 97 percent driver compliance,'' TLC chairman Matthew Daus said in a statement.

The city's law department said it had "reached a settlement in principal'' and was working to resolve the outstanding legal details and finalize the agreement. Ackman said the settlement must be approved by a judge in federal court in Brooklyn.

Glover has appeared in several movies, including all four "Lethal Weapons,'' ``Grand Canyon'' and ``The Color Purple.''





WNYC Radio

NYC Settles With Taxi Drivers
WNYC Newsroom

NEW YORK, NY, March 07, 2006 — New York City has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed for hundreds of taxi drivers whose licenses were suspended or revoked in a crackdown on cabbies who wouldn't pick up passengers because of their race.

The drivers lost their jobs as part of an anti-discrimination effort that began in 19-99 after actor Danny Glover filed a complaint with the Taxi & Limousine Commission because several taxis refused to stop for him.

The drivers' attorney argued that the sweep didn't allow drivers to answer charges made against them, denying them due process of the law. Under the settlement, drivers will be paid damages and those whose licenses were revoked will be allowed to apply for new ones.

1 comment:

Graeme said...

Great result!