STEVE MARTORELLI v. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, SC 19307

Judicial District of New Britain

 

      Transportation; Whether Statute Governing Livery Permits, § 13b-103, is Unconstitutional as Violative of Equal Protection, Due Process and Interstate Commerce Clauses; Whether Plaintiff Satisfied Statute’s “Public Convenience and Necessity” Standard. The plaintiff filed an application with the defendant, the Department of Transportation, pursuant to General Statutes § 13b-103, seeking a livery permit to operate a two vehicle limousine service.  After a public hearing, the defendant found that the plaintiff had sufficient assets and was suitable to operate a limousine service but denied the application on the ground that the plaintiff failed to prove, as required by § 13b-103, that “public convenience and necessity will be improved by the operation and conduct of such livery service.”  Specifically, the hearing officer found that, while the plaintiff showed that his proposed business would be beneficial because he could provide limousine services at substantially lower rates than existing providers, his evidence fell short of establishing a need or necessity for the new business.  The plaintiff appealed to the trial court, which found that the hearing officer reasonably concluded that the plaintiff did not satisfy the public convenience and necessity standard of § 13b-103.  The plaintiff also argued before the trial court that § 13b-103 was unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause of the constitution of the United States.  He claimed that the statute discriminates in favor of established companies with existing permits—and against companies seeking to enter the limousine business for the first time—in that applicants who already hold permits can apply for two additional permits without having to prove “public convenience and necessity” at a public hearing.  The trial court disagreed, finding that there was a rational basis for the distinction because § 13b-103 carries an implicit assumption that “public convenience and necessity” would be served by the issuance of a limited number of additional permits to existing permittees where public convenience and necessity were already demonstrated at the hearing on the issuance of the original permits and where all of the permittee’s existing permits are registered and in use.  The court also noted that the legislature rationally could have concluded that the government should not bear the expense of holding public hearings under those circumstances.  Next, the trial court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that § 13b-103 violates the interstate commerce clause of the federal constitution, which limits a state’s ability to regulate or otherwise burden the flow of interstate commerce, noting that the statute treats in-state permit applicants exactly the same as out-of-state applicants and that there was no evidence presented showing that the statute imposes a burden on interests outside of Connecticut.  Finally, the trial court rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the “public necessity and convenience” standard in the statute is so ambiguous that it violates constitutional guarantees of due process, finding that the statutory language is not unconstitutionally vague.  This is the plaintiff’s appeal from the trial court’s judgment dismissing his challenge to the defendant’s decision denying his application for a permit to operate a limousine service.