Another court battle: Taxi owners not happy cap has been lifted

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The cap has been lifted, and now, Milwaukee taxi owners are suing.

On July 22nd, the Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously to completely lift the cap on the number of taxi cabs that are allowed to operate in the city of Milwaukee.

Lifting the cap on taxi cab permits gave ride-share services like Uber and Lyft the ability to be recognized and licensed.

Before the vote to lift the cap, the city of Milwaukee only issued 420 taxi cab permits -- but now, there's no limit.

It's something taxi owners aren't happy about. They say lifting the cap creates a system with little or no oversight and puts them at a distinct disadvantage.

On Monday morning, August 25th, Joe Sanfelippo Cabs, Inc. and a group of other Milwaukee taxi companies filed suit -- seeking to block the law that lifted the cap.

After the suit was filed, the Institute for Justice announced it will intervene in the lawsuit.

In Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2013, the cap on taxi cab permits was declared unconstitutional following a lawsuit brought by the Institute for Justice on behalf of independent taxi cab drivers.

Now, the Institute for Justice says it is intervening again.

“The cab companies’ lawsuit is desperate, baseless and belies their true motivation of protecting their monopoly at all costs,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Anthony Sanders. “Milwaukee’s new ordinance brings the city into full compliance with our victory last year. We intend to intervene in the companies’ lawsuit to ensure that Milwaukee never returns to a city ruled by an unconstitutional system that sees cab riders as pawns in a monopolistic machine.”

The Institute for Justice will represent taxi drivers Jatinder Cheema and Saad Malik in federal court. They will file a motion to have the case dismissed -- upholding the new law.

“After working for someone else for so many years I am very excited that I can now be my own boss” said Cheema. “I look forward to defeating this lawsuit and driving my own cab.”

The former cap, implemented by the city in 1991, reduced the number of taxicabs in Milwaukee to only 320 and caused the price of a taxi permit to rise from $85 to over $150,000 in 2013.

In response to the drivers’ court victory, however, the city had increased the number of cabs by 100 in November 2013.

Now, in response to overwhelming demand by drivers and passengers, the city has lifted the cap altogether.

“We will go to court to defend last year’s victory and ensure that every driver keeps the right to earn an honest living in Milwaukee,” said IJ attorney Larry Salzman.

Monitor FOX6 News and for updates on this developing story.

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