Saturday, February 21, 2009

Moshe Leib v. Hillsborough County Public Transportation

Feb 19: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, Case No. 08-14271. Moshe Leib (Leib) appealed from the district court’s dismissal of his suit, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (HCPTC, or the Commission) for denying him permission to operate a Toyota Prius as one of the limousines offered by his transportation service. Leib argues that the HCPTC violated his due process and equal protection rights, and that the Commission’s rules are unconstitutionally vague and impermissibly burden interstate commerce. The district court dismissed Leib’s complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) and the Appeals Court affirmed the decision.

Leib owns and operates TB, a limousine service in the Tampa Bay area. Seeking to offer customers an "environmentally-friendly” alternative to traditional limousines, Leib bought a Prius. In order to operate the Prius as a limousine within Hillsborough County, Leib had to obtain a permit from the HCPTC, the administrative agency charged by the Florida State Legislature with regulating the operation of public vehicles on Hillsborough County’s public highways. The Commission denied Leib’s request on the ground that the Prius did not qualify as a “luxury” vehicle, and thus did not meet the definition of “limousine” in HCPTC Taxi Rule 1.15. A subsequent waiver request was also denied by HCPTC.

The Appeals Court said, ". . .Leib’s argument rests on a factual mistake: he argues that 'environmentally-friendly passengers that desire to utilize ecologically superior transportation are left with no alternative options whatsoever as a result of the HCPTC’s complete prohibition of eco-friendly vehicles for use as limousines.' This is simply false: an environmentally-friendly vehicle may qualify as a limousine so long as it meets Rule 1.15’s luxury and other requirements. Accordingly, Leib’s interstate commerce claim was properly dismissed."

Access the complete opinion (click here).