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Davis v. City of Jackson

Supreme Court of Mississippi

April 12, 2018

JOHN DAVIS AND SHAD DENSON
v.
CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/15/2016

          HINDS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. WILLIAM H. SINGLETARY TRIAL JUDGE

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: DAVID MICHAEL HURST, JR. KRISTEN NAJUANA BLANCHARD LASHUNDRA JACKSON-WINTERS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: MONTE L. BARTON

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: MONICA DAVIS JOINER KRISTEN NAJUANA BLANCHARD

          BEFORE RANDOLPH, P.J., MAXWELL AND BEAM, JJ.

          RANDOLPH, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶1. Plaintiffs John Davis and Shad Denson filed a complaint in Hinds County Chancery Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the City of Jackson, Mississippi ("City"). The plaintiffs, both taxicab drivers, sought (1) a declaratory judgment that the City's taxicab ordinances violate the Mississippi Constitution, and (2) an injunction to prevent the City from denying the plaintiffs a Certificate of Public Necessity for their failure to comply with the City's ordinances. The City filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, citing Mississippi Code Section 11-51-75 (Rev. 2012), which requires a bill of exceptions to be filed and transferred to circuit court when the complaining party is aggrieved by a discretionary action of a municipal governing authority. The chancery court granted the City's motion to dismiss, finding it lacked jurisdiction to consider the case. The plaintiffs appealed. The Court finds that the dismissal for lack of jurisdiction was proper, but for a different reason. The plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the constitutionality of the City's taxi ordinances because they failed to file or complete the required application to start a taxicab company in Jackson.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Davis and Denson make their living driving taxicabs in Jackson. Davis has driven a taxicab in Jackson since the early 1990s, and Denson has driven a taxicab for more than fifteen years. Both have worked for various taxi companies in the Jackson area. Shortly after beginning their careers driving taxicabs, Davis and Denson were able to purchase their own vehicles, but due to certain Jackson ordinances, were required to pay fees to existing taxicab companies in order to use their vehicles as taxicabs.[1] They were dissatisfied with this arrangement but allege that they were never able to start their own taxicab businesses due to Jackson's requirement of a Certificate of Public Necessity ("CPNC"), a prerequisite to starting a taxicab company in Jackson.

         ¶3. Davis never filed an application to obtain a CPNC. According to the complaint, Davis inquired with the City's Planning and Permit Department about starting his own taxicab company but was told by a department official that Jackson did not need another taxicab company. Denson did not complete his application to obtain a CPNC. Denson claimed that a City official told him not to pay the nonrefundable application fee until his application was ruled on. Denson stated that, in attempting to comply with all of Jackson's taxicab ordinances, his finances were depleted before his application could make it through the entire review process. Both plaintiffs claimed that applying for a CPNC would be futile due to the City's "anticompetitive, arbitrary, and irrational requirements."

         ¶4. On March 2, 2016, Davis and Denson filed a complaint in Hinds County Chancery Court challenging the constitutionality of the requirement to (1) possess a Jackson license; (2) have an office in Jackson; (3) have half or all of their vehicles domiciled in Jackson; (4) staff an office twenty-four hours per day; and (5) own at least eight taxicab vehicles. The plaintiffs argued that the ordinances violate the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause guaranteed by the Mississippi Constitution, and that, because of those "unnecessary and restrictive conditions, " they were prevented from starting their own taxicab businesses in Jackson.

         ¶5. The City answered, and the plaintiffs shortly thereafter issued their requests for discovery. Before discovery began, the City filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based on the plaintiffs' failure to comply with Mississippi Code Section 11-51-75, i.e., failure to file a bill of exceptions in circuit court. The City argued that a bill of exceptions was the plaintiffs' exclusive avenue to appeal a discretionary action of a municipal governing authority, citing Falco Lime Inc., et al. v. the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Vicksburg, et al., 863 So.2d 711, 713 (Miss. 2002), and Cheeks v. Smith, 152 So.3d 1215, 1216 (Miss. Ct. App. 2014) (a bill of exceptions provides the "exclusive remedy" to appeal a municipal board's decision).

         ¶6. In response to the City's motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs advanced several arguments relating why they should not be required to file bills of exceptions. The chancellor issued an order granting the City's motion to dismiss. The chancellor, citing Falco Lime, 83 So.2d at 715-716, and Cheeks, 152 So.3d at 1216, found that "the Mississippi Supreme Court has been crystal clear that parties aggrieved by a municipal board's decision cannot go outside the statutory bill-of-exceptions procedure and seek independent injunctive relief." ...


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