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Patrick v. Municipality of Anchorage, Anchorage Transp. Com'n

Supreme Court of Alaska

July 19, 2013

Megan PATRICK, Appellant,
v.
MUNICIPALITY OF ANCHORAGE, ANCHORAGE TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION, Appellee.

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Charles W. Coe, Law Office of Charles W. Coe, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Dean T. Gates, Assistant Municipal Attorney, and Dennis A. Wheeler, Municipal Attorney, Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before: CARPENETI, Chief Justice, FABE, WINFREE, and STOWERS, Justices.

OPINION

CARPENETI, Chief Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

A taxi driver was cited for driving with a suspended chauffeur's license. She asserted that she was not driving the cab on the night in question. Because she had several other violations her license was revoked under the relevant municipal code. The taxi driver filed a timely appeal to contest the revocation of her license. An evidentiary hearing was held and the hearing officer forwarded a proposed decision to the transportation commission, recommending that the license revocation should be upheld. The transportation commission adopted the hearing officer's proposed decision. The taxi driver appealed to the superior court, arguing that the revocation was in error and that her due process rights were violated. The superior court affirmed the Commission. The taxi driver reiterates these arguments on appeal before us. Because the taxi driver's due process rights were not violated and there is sufficient evidence to revoke her license, we affirm.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

Megan Patrick held chauffeur's license number 7880. On May 5, 2009, the Anchorage Transportation Commission suspended her license because she failed to pay fines arising from two prior traffic violations. Patrick asserted that she failed to pay the fines or otherwise appeal them because the transportation inspector advised her that no action would be taken against her license. Patrick sought to file an appeal regarding the previous violations but it was rejected as untimely. She then appealed to the superior court, in Patrick v. Municipality of Anchorage, [1] arguing that she should have been allowed an opportunity to show good cause for her late appeal. The superior court agreed. During the pendency of the appeal, Patrick did not seek to stay the suspension or revocation. Her chauffeur's license was later revoked in part due to these violations. The present case arises from the revocation of Patrick's license following an incident on May 22, 2009. The actual events are vigorously disputed by the parties. It is agreed that Patrick was cited for driving with a suspended license because she was operating a taxicab without a current, valid chauffeur's license. The ticket was issued after a fellow taxi driver, who knew Patrick's license was suspended, saw her driving a taxi and called dispatch to report that she was driving cab 131 at the airport. The cab was signed in to the dispatch system under the name of Baltazar Arias, but he was not driving the cab.[2] Patrick testified that her friend Claire Goldsmith was driving the cab that night. Patrick suggested that Goldsmith use Arias's sign-in since Arias wanted hours counted towards a new permit. The dispatcher deauthorized the sign-in and called the owner of the taxi, Julio Guerro.[3] Guerro then called Patrick and requested that she park the vehicle.[4]

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Patrick was issued a citation. Because of the previous violations she was considered a " chronic violator" [5] and her license was revoked on June 4, 2009. Prior to the revocation, Patrick had several conversations with Brent Fraser, the transportation inspector, in which she claimed she had not been operating the taxi and had been working a different job that evening. She produced no documentation indicating that she had been working elsewhere. [6] Her license was revoked and she requested an administrative hearing to review the revocation.

B. Anchorage Municipal Code Background

The administrative proceedings were governed by the Anchorage Municipal Code (AMC) provisions relating to the Anchorage Transportation Commission, which regulates vehicles for hire.[7] The transportation inspector investigates and enforces these regulations.[8] When a taxi driver is issued a citation, notice and appeal procedures are provided by the Commission: Once a citation is issued, the driver has 15 days to file an appeal requesting a hearing in front of " the chairman of the commission or his or her designee" (a hearing officer).[9] Pursuant to AMC 11.10.030(D), Patrick's appeal was held before a hearing officer, who accordingly had the power to

conduct hearings, to make rulings regarding the admission of evidence and procedure, and to prepare a proposed decision, with findings of facts and conclusions of law, which may be adopted by the designated member of the [Transportation Commission] charged with making such decisions under this section. The designated member of the commission may adopt the hearing officer's decision or decide the matter himself or herself based upon the record. Once the transportation commissioner adopts the hearing officer's decision or makes an independent decision, the driver may appeal to the superior court within 30 days.[10]

When a chauffeur's license has been revoked for a reason set out in AMC 11.10.110(A),[11] a similar procedure is available under AMC 11.10.100(C).[12] However, in the case of a revocation, the commissioner not only may adopt the hearing officer's decision or independently decide ...


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