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Germantown Cab Co. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority

April 28, 2010

GERMANTOWN CAB CO., PETITIONER
v.
PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Leavitt

Argued: November 5, 2009

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION

Germantown Cab Company petitions for review of an adjudication of the Philadelphia Parking Authority imposing a $1,725 fine upon Germantown Cab and suspending the operation of one of its cabs for 30 days. The Authority imposed these sanctions because it found that Germantown Cab had violated the Authority's taxicab regulation. Germantown Cab challenges the adjudication as invalid as a matter of law because the regulation in question had not been promulgated in accordance with the Commonwealth Documents Law*fn1 and, as such, was unenforceable. It follows, according to Germantown Cab, that the Authority's adjudication is also a nullity. We agree and reverse the adjudication.

Background

In 1947, the General Assembly created municipal parking authorities with the enactment of the Parking Authorities Law, Act of June 5, 1947, P.L. 458, as amended, 53 P.S. §§341-356. This law granted all municipal parking authorities the power and duty to regulate on-street and off-street parking. In 2001, the General Assembly codified and amended the Parking Authorities Law, placing it in Title 53 of the Consolidated Statutes, "General Local Government Code," 53 Pa. C.S. §§5501-5517. The consolidated statute, inter alia, established an entirely separate statutory regime for Philadelphia's parking authority.*fn2 In 2004, the General Assembly amended Title 53 to give the Philadelphia Parking Authority the additional responsibility to regulate taxicab and limousine service in and around Philadelphia. Act of July 16, 2004, P.L. 758, No. 94 (Act 2004-94).

Prior to the enactment of Act 2004-94, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) had been responsible for the regulation of taxicab and limousine service throughout Pennsylvania. With respect to Philadelphia, the PUC's responsibilities were set forth in the Medallion Act, 66 Pa. C.S. §§2401-2416. Act 2004-94 repealed the Medallion Act and replaced it with Chapter 57 of the Parking Authorities Law. 53 Pa. C.S. §§5701-5745.*fn3 The legislature established the effective date of Chapter 57 as 270 days from July 16, 2004 (April 13, 2005) or the day on which notice appeared in the Pennsylvania Bulletin of a transfer of regulatory authority from the PUC to the Authority, whichever day occurred earlier. See Sections 24 and 25 of Act 2004-94, 53 Pa. C.S. §5701 (historical and statutory notes).*fn4 Notice of the transfer appeared in the March 12, 2005, edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. 35 Pa. B. 1737 (2005). Accordingly, Chapter 57 became the law on March 12, 2005.

In June 2005, the Authority promulgated its own taxicab regulation.*fn5

It was under authority of that regulation that the Authority issued citations to Germantown Cab, which citations are the subject of this appeal.

Factual and Procedural History

The facts are not in dispute. On November 10, 2008, a Taxicab Division Inspector for the Authority encountered Taxicab G-45, owned by Germantown Cab, dropping off a passenger at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.*fn6 He inspected the taxi and discovered that its inspection sticker had expired; both front tires were bald; and the right rear door was missing its rubber gasket. Each of these problems violated the Authority's taxicab regulation. Accordingly, the Inspector, David Rotan, issued three citations to Germantown Cab:

(1) Citation T-03840 was issued for operating a taxi without a current Authority inspection, in violation of Regulation Section 15.a.

(2) Citation T-03841 was issued for allowing Taxicab G-45 to operate with bald tires, in violation of Regulation Section 13.b. (3) Citation T-03842 was issued for allowing Taxicab G-45 to operate with a missing door gasket, in violation of Regulation Section 13.

Reproduced Record at 1, 3 and 5 (R.R. ___).*fn7

Germantown Cab objected to the citations on the basis that the Authority did not properly promulgate the regulation that Germantown Cab had been charged with violating. This argument was rejected. Based on Rotan's evidence, the hearing officer sustained the citations and imposed a $1,725 fine and a 30-day suspension of Taxicab G-45's ability to operate.

Germantown Cab petitioned this Court for review and, simultaneously, filed a motion to stay enforcement of the Parking Authority's order. The stay was first denied by the Philadelphia Parking Authority and then by this Court. This Court denied the stay concluding, inter alia, that Germantown Cab was not likely to succeed on the merits. Germantown Cab Co. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, (Pa. Cmwlth., No. 1252 C.D. 2009, filed July 29, 2009).

Germantown Cab's challenge to the Authority's taxicab regulation is not the first. Various taxicab drivers and companies have sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as writs of mandamus and prohibition from this Court, to enjoin enforcement of the Authority's regulation. These complaints were transferred to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County because this Court held that the Philadelphia Parking Authority was a local agency. Blount v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, 920 A.2d 215 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007) (en banc) (Blount I). On appeal, our Supreme Court reversed. It held that the Authority "is a Commonwealth agency for the purposes of regulating taxicabs" and not a local agency. Blount v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, 600 Pa. 277, 289, 965 A.2d 226, 234 (2009) (Blount II). Accordingly, it remanded the complaints to this Court for further proceedings.

On remand, we sustained the Authority's preliminary objections for the reason that the Blount petitioners had available adequate remedies at law in the form of appeals from the Authority's adjudications. Blount v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, (Pa. Cmwlth., No. 265 M.D. 2006, filed September 8, 2009) (Blount III). Indeed, one such appeal is the case sub judice.*fn8

Issue

Germantown Cab raises one issue on appeal. It asserts that the Philadelphia Parking Authority's taxicab regulation is invalid and unenforceable because it was not promulgated in accordance with the Commonwealth Documents Law. Germantown Cab does not challenge the Authority's determination that it violated the regulation. Despite the other above-described litigation, ...


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