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News, City Government, Transportation, Courts

Court Takes City's Side in Armenian Taxi Cab Lawsuit

Posted Jan. 27, 2011, 7:26 am

Slav Kandyba

Although a Los Angeles County judge denied an injunction on Jan. 19 sought by an association comprised of 300 Armenian taxi cab drivers that claimed the City of Santa Monica discriminated against them when it granted other applicants franchises, the case remains open, according to deputy city attorney Anthony Serrittella.

The LA County Superior Court website lists a March 28 hearing set in the case as “conference-case management.”

“We're in the process of doing additional work we need to do to resolve the issue in the City's favor,” Serrittella said, adding he did not know if settlement talks were taking place.

The attorney of record for the Taxi Drivers Association of Santa Monica could not be reached as of Wednesday.

In denying the injunction, Los Angeles County Superior Court judge James C. Chalfant flatly dismissed the Taxi Drivers Association of Santa Monica's claims of racial discrimination, stating that the submitted complaint only provides “…evidence of an investigation and at most stonewalling…” on the City's part in dealing with Nora Hovsepian, one of two people who represented the Armenian taxi cab drivers' interests before Santa Monica officials through conversations with Santa Monica City Council members and several letters.

“The declarations of Nora Hovsepian and Varouj Kouzikian do not provide evidence of invidious discrimination,” the court ruled.

In their response to Taxi Drivers Association of Santa Monica v. City of Santa Monica complaint, Santa Monica attorneys successfully argued that the association lacked standing to file the lawsuit because it didn't seek a taxi franchise, but was merely representing the interests of its members.

The association only formed seven months after franchise proposals were due when four cab companies merged; those companies were VIP Yellow Cab, Lady's Yellow Cab, Pacific, and SM Yellow.

“The City Council in its discussions and award did not consider race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or national origin of any franchise applicant,” according to the City's response. “The franchisees include many shareholders, managers, and drivers of Armenian descent and the city's award of franchises; many Armenian-American drivers have applied or are applying to join the franchises.”

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