A Hinds County judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by two Jackson taxi drivers over the city’s anti-competitive taxi ordinance.
Hinds County Chancery Court Judge William Singletary ruled Dec. 15 that a 170-year-old state law gives citizens harmed by a county or municipal ordinance only 10 days to file an appeal. Jackson’s taxi ordinance was last amended on Jan. 22, 2013, placing the drivers’ complaint outside the 10-day window and blocking John Davis and Shad Denson from seeking injunctive relief.
The suit was filed on behalf of the two drivers by the Mississippi Justice Institute. The pair said the city’s ordinance prevents them from being able to start their own taxi cab operations.
Mike Hurst, director of the Mississippi Justice Institute and the counsel for Davis and Denson, said he and his clients are trying to figure out their next step. They could appeal the decision.
“We’re obviously disappointed in the judge dismissing the lawsuit,” Hurst said. “We’ll re-evaluate this decision and that antiquated law and determine what we need to do next to ensure my clients have the economic liberty they need to succeed.”
The law has been the subject of several Mississippi Supreme Court decisions, with most rulings going in favor of the counties or municipalities. And it isn’t popular with Mississippi attorneys or judges. In a 2015 letter sent to the Mississippi Supreme Court by attorney James Peden Jr., he asked the court to hand down a ruling that would provide some clarity on the law, which dates from the 1840s.
“This statute is poorly worded,” Peden wrote in the letter. “It contains gaps. It is subject to conflicting interpretations. It bewilders able attorneys. It confuses distinguished judges.”
Jackson’s taxi ordinance puts substantial roadblocks in the path of anyone trying to enter the market.
It requires that cab companies have a garage in Jackson with an operator available 24 hours to answer service calls.
A cab company owner applying for a permit to operate in Jackson must have at least eight cabs, with half of them garaged within the city limits, and be approved by the Transportation Permit and Review Committee that has one representative each from the city’s taxi and limousine companies.
Also, the ordinance bans cabs from carrying outside advertisements and requires a dress code for drivers.