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Mohamed-Ali v. City of Newark

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

September 13, 2013

EL MOSAAD MOHAMED-ALI, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF NEWARK, a Municipal Corporation of the State of New Jersey, Defendant-Respondent, and CITY OF NEWARK, DIVISION OF TAXICABS, a corporate and politic of the City of Newark, MARIA MARTINEZ, individually and in her capacity as Dispatcher, JOSE LABOY, individually and in his capacity as Chairperson for Taxi Cab Commission, ALVERA WIGGINS, individually and in her capacity as Acting Director of the Division of Taxicabs, EDWARD SELLERS, individually and in his capacity as Commissioner of the Taxi Cab Commission, GERARD ALEXANDRE, individually and in his capacity as Commissioner of the of the Taxi Cab Commission, D. RODNEY DAVIS, individually and in his capacity as Commissioner of the Taxi Cab Commission, LUIS OSORIO, former Manager of Division of Taxi Cab Commission, MARCIA SPRUILL, Chief Inspector of Division of Taxicabs, LUIS MUNOZ, Special Inspector Division of Taxicabs, JAMES CRAWFORD, individually and in his capacity as Commissioner of the Taxi Cab Commission, JOHN KEMP, individually and in his capacity as Business Administrator for the City of Newark, JANE DOES 1-4 AND JOHN DOES 1-4, Defendants.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 23, 2013.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No L-5245-09.

Elmosaad Mohamed-Ali, appellant pro se.

Department of Law, City of Newark, attorneys for respondent (Anna Pereira, Corporation Counsel, of counsel; Steven F. Olivo, on the brief).

Before Judges Yannotti and Hayden.

PER CURIAM.

Plaintiff Elmosaad[1] Mohamed-Ali appeals from the March 2, 2012 Law Division order granting summary judgment to defendant City of Newark and dismissing his complaint. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

We glean the following from the sparse record. Plaintiff worked as a licensed taxi driver in the City of Newark since 2000. On June 27, 2007, plaintiff had an altercation with a dispatcher at Newark Liberty International Airport. The next day, plaintiff received a phone call from an employee of the Newark Division of Taxicabs (Division), requesting that he come to the Division's office immediately. When plaintiff arrived, he was informed that his license was being suspended immediately, pending a hearing on the airport incident. Plaintiff also received a written notice of the July 12, 2007 hearing, stating that the hearing concerned the complaint the dispatcher brought against him for the June 26, 2007 incident and citing the municipal ordinance violations with which he was charged.

At the July 12, 2007 hearing before the Newark Taxi Commission, the airport dispatcher testified that plaintiff had physically attacked her after she spoke to him about not following her instructions. Plaintiff denied the dispatcher's statements and reported that the dispatcher yelled at him, then struck him and suddenly fell to the ground. The Commission members credited the dispatcher's statements and suspended plaintiff's taxi license for six months. Plaintiff had the right to appeal a suspension to the Business Administrator for a hearing. Newark, N.J., Rev. Gen. Ordinances tit. 34, ch. 1, art. 11, § 53(a) (2012). If he was dissatisfied with that result, he had a right to appeal to the City Council.[2]

After the Commission hearing, plaintiff obtained written instructions on how to appeal and obtain a stay of the license suspension. He had to file a written application of appeal within seven days of the Commission's decision, pay a $75 filing fee and deposit $200 for the transcript. "Upon completion and acceptance of the above items by the Division of Taxicabs, a stay of execution will commence." The record shows that on July 13, 2007, plaintiff paid the filing fee and made the transcript deposit. The only written application for a hearing in the record was addressed to the Business Administrator, dated June 29, 2007, wherein he protested the June 27 suspension and requested a hearing.

On July 17, 2007, an attorney representing plaintiff wrote to the Assistant Corporate Counsel heading the litigation unit inquiring about the plaintiff's appeal and the automatic stay. The record does not reflect this Assistant Corporation Counsel had any responsibilities with the Division, what response plaintiff's attorney received, or what the attorney did to follow up the letter. When a different attorney representing plaintiff wrote directly to the Division in October 2007, he received an immediate response. The Division informed him that plaintiff was entitled to a stay, which he could obtain by going to the Division's office and filling out some papers for a temporary license, which would remain in effect until the appeal was completed. The record does not reflect what plaintiff did in response to this information.

On June 25, 2009, plaintiff filed a complaint against Newark, several Newark employees, and other individuals, alleging that he had been deprived of his property interest in his taxi license without due process of law, contrary to 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. He alleged that the notice of the hearing was insufficient, the hearing was inadequate and unfair, and he was denied his right to an appeal. He also alleged that the six-months suspension was not permitted by the municipal ordinance. He claimed damages due to the six month license suspension of loss of income plus numerous related economic losses.

After discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff had been provided with due process, never pursued the appeal or obtained a stay of the suspension, and, thus, did not suffer any losses due to any illegal actions of the defendants. The judge agreed that plaintiff had a property interest in his taxi license. The judge found, however, that the written notice of the July 12, 2007 hearing was sufficient to ...


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