Archive for the tag 'supreme court'

Source: joseanavas/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: The Supreme Court gaveth a day after it tooketh away.

Less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it — sort of — righted justice by an identical 5-4 margin when it ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and affirmed equal protection to same-sex couples and their families in states that legislate it. As a result, same-sex married couples are now entitled to the rights and benefits, such as Social Security, that are guaranteed to married heterosexual couples.

The vote came, coincidentally, just a couple of days before the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that erupted in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan, which sparked the establishment of the Gay Liberation Front and drew attention to the oppression of gays, a turning point in gay rights history.

The decision noted that DOMA created and endorsed a two-tier system that basically designated same-sex couples “as second class” citizens, which violated their Fifth Amendment right to equal protection.

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Image courtesy of the offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg

The hotly-debated plan to sell 18,000 permits for cabs and 2,000 new medallions for wheelchair-accessible cabs to service the five boroughs has crashed.

Last Friday, a judge rejected the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s “Five Borough Taxi Plan,” which would have allowed livery cabs to pick up street hails in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs.

The Granny Smith-colored cabs were the apple of Mayor Bloomberg’s eye. They were set to bring in a much-needed $635 million, although other sources have listed the revenue as high as $1 billion, for this year’s budget.

“The reality is we now have a $635 million hole in our budget because we lose projected revenue from the sale of taxi medallions,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “More importantly, New Yorkers beyond Manhattan, the people who live in our boroughs, are going to be treated like second-class citizens.”

The plan would have opened up cab service to all five boroughs for the first time ever. However, State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron said the city violated the state constitution by circumventing the City Council and getting Albany to approve the taxi plan instead of its own legislature.

The medallion-holding yellow cab drivers are thrilled the judge ruled in their favor.

“We applaud the judge’s decision and we believe we are going to find a solution but not a solution that hurts two industries, that divides two industries,” said Fernando Mateo of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers.

City Hall plans to appeal the decision.

President Harry S. Truman gets a chuckle out of the November 3, 1948 edition of the Chicago Tribune, with the famously inaccurate headline. Source: National Archives

BETWEEN THE LINES: Every American news enterprise was most likely primed and on its toes for last Thursday’s landmark Supreme Court of the United States’ (SCOTUS) decision on federal health care. It was perhaps SCOTUS’ most anticipated ruling since it ruled on the Bush v. Gore 2000 election.

Yet, there was a parallel story that almost got lost in the frenzy of reporting and reaction to the court’s 5-to-4 decision, which ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Two of the three 24/7 cable news networks jumped the gun with “breaking news” headlines that the nine justices rejected the law.

Soon after the 193-page decision was released, and journalists streamed out of the Supreme Court building to deliver the news, CNN and Fox News — in their eagerness to be the first to inform waiting audiences — incorrectly reported that the healthcare mandate had been struck down.

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Livery cab lawsuit NYC

Source: Omnibus, Uris via Wikimedia Commons

New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron put the brakes on city’s plan to create a new class of taxis to serve neighborhoods in Brooklyn, northern Manhattan and other areas.

The judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Mayor Bloomberg from implementing the city’s Outer Borough Livery Street Hail and Taxi Medallion Plan, otherwise known as the HAIL Law, which was put into effect on June 1.

If enacted, the law would allow 18,000 livery cabs to pick up street-hail passengers outside central Manhattan and bring in about $1 billion to the city’s budget.

The lawsuit was brought on by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade.

“Obviously, anything that affects New York City affects the state in which it is situated, and just as obviously non-New York City residents can (and do, in droves) spend time in New York City.  But, generally speaking, these facts cannot satisfy the Home Rule requirements or nothing would be left of the rule but the exceptions, ” wrote Justice Engoron in his ruling.

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Source: mikealex/Flickr

A lawsuit brought by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade against the city for its plan to create a new class of “outerborough” taxicabs was amended on Friday, adding City Councilman Lew Fidler as a plaintiff in the case.

The trade association, which represents the owners of nearly 4,000 taxicabs, has also requested a preliminary injunction to prevent the city from issuing the new medallions before the court decides on whether or not the plan – known as the HAIL Law – is unconstitutional and in violation of the city’s agreement with existing medallion owners.

“I have been against the plan to provide outer borough taxi service from the start, as it is a ‘solution in search of a problem,” Fidler states in his affidavit. “In my 10 years as a City Council member, I have never gotten a call asking me why a citizen can’t hail a cab on the streets of Marine Park.”

The affidavit goes on: “I am a Plaintiff in this action, however, not merely because the HAIL Law is a bad policy, but because the HAIL Law is unconstitutional. The HAIL Law violates New York City’s right to Home Rule. Most fundamentally, it interferes with the City of New York’s right to regulate taxicabs and liveries and the City Council’s right to decide when to issue new medallions. Instead, the State Legislature has set regulations for livery cabs and has transferred the right to issue new taxicab medallions to the Mayor.”

According to a press release from the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, their legal challenge rests on the following arguments:

  • The bypassing of the “home rule message” that has been provided by the New York City Council for every other taxi medallion bill but was ignored for reasons of political expediency.
  • Further relinquishment of traditional and constitutionally protected City Council powers to the Mayor with regard to the issuance and regulation of medallions.
  • The violation of the “exclusive privileges and immunities” clause which is meant to, among other things, prevent one exclusive group of people from unfairly benefiting financially from a City issued asset – in this case livery hail permits.

Source: mikealex/Flickr

The city’s plan to roll out a new class of taxi to serve neighborhoods in Brooklyn, northern Manhattan and other areas poorly served by yellow cabs, is now heading to court, courtesy of a lawsuit filed by a lobbying group representing the largest yellow medallion taxi fleets.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in New York State Supreme Court by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, claims that the outerborough street hail livery plan, passed into law by Albany legislators in Feburary, violates the rights of medallion owners who paid for exclusive rights to pick up street hails in New York City.

The proposal would create a new class of taxi medallion for up to 18,000 livery drivers, giving them the right to pick up street hails in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and northern Manhattan – areas previously underserved by yellow cabs that clog the city’s financial and tourist areas. It also permits the city to issue 2,000 new yellow taxi medallions.

The privileges for livery cabs will unfairly reward a culture of bad behavior from livery cabbies who “poach” street hails from yellow cabs, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade claims, and will hurt the livelihood of yellow cab owners who will now have to compete with the new livery class as well as 2,000 new yellow cabs.

“The street hail livery rules are unconstitutional, irresponsible and unconscionable,” said Ron Sherman, president of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade. “How can the City of New York sell medallions to thousands of individual owner-drivers and small businesses, promising them the exclusive right to pick up street hails, only to take that right away in one destructive piece of legislation?”

The group is also claiming that the process in which the legislation was enacted was unconstitutional, violating a “Home Rule” procedure, in which legislation affecting only one locality can only be passed in the state legislature once the local legislative body has given its stamp of approval. There was no City Council vote on the issuance of new medallions, and no public hearing.

“How can the City do this without a single public hearing, without the authorization of the City Council, and without a single economic study on its effects on this industry comprised mostly of immigrants who have pursued the American dream by working hard, saving their earnings and playing by the rules?” Sherman asked.

What do you think? Is this legislation that will hurt the business of yellow cab drivers? Or will the bill provide service for areas where the yellow cabs were not serving anyway?

Sheepshead Bay Mosque

The site of the proposed mosque. Local Muslims painted over where a vandal had previously spray painted "He is dead" after Osama bin Laden's death.

A Kings County Supreme Court judge refused yesterday to issue an injunction against the proposed mosque at 2812 Voorhies Avenue that would have required them to halt construction. But Bay People, the opponents of the mosque, are saying the “fight is far from over.”

The morning hearing was for a preliminary injunction to stop contractors from continuing work on the mosque until neighbors’ zoning challenges have been properly reviewed. The motion was filed in April by lawyers from the main opposition group, Bay People, after they got tired of what they believe to be administrative stonewalling.

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Stillwell Avenue

Matthew Falcone and his family haven’t had it easy these past four years, following an accident in 2006 that left him with brain damage and partially paralyzed. But the 53-year-old Gravesend construction worker is getting some relief and better care in the wake of a Supreme Court decision awarding him $40.8 million.

The judgement found Verizon responsible for the accident, in which one of the company’s vans zoomed down Gravesend’s Stillwell Avenue at 50 mph, hitting Falcone and throwing him through the air. Falcone spent weeks in the hospital in a coma, not expected to survive. Since then, he has been moved to a Staten Island nursing home. According to his sister, the money will be used to move him in with family and pay for in-home care. “I’m just very grateful that Matty is finally going to have the kind of care he deserves,” his sister, Doreen Bergamo, told the Daily News.

According to the New York Post, Verizon’s attorneys argued that Falcone was at fault. They said Falcone stuck his head out from behind one of Stillwell Avenue’s elevated support pillars, and was hit by the vehicles side mirror. But photos from after the accident show damage to the van’s windshield and headlights. Verizon is considering an appeal.