Mobilization for Justice (MFJ) provides free legal advice and representation to low-income taxi drivers facing civil penalties that threaten their livelihood. We are the only legal services organization doing this work for a distressed, predominantly immigrant population in need of support.
Representation by trained advocates significantly improves these drivers’ chances of avoiding or lessening a fine that can cost them crucial income intended for rent and food. These fines can range from $500 to $2,000 in addition to points on their licenses which, for cabbies driving long shifts, can add up quickly for relatively small infractions.
The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (“OATH”) is the City’s independent administrative law tribunal authorized to conduct hearings for summonses issued by New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. OATH itself was concerned about the impact these civil penalties are having on people working in the city’s taxi industry, and reached out to MFJ for help. Indigent New Yorkers have no statutory right to representation in these hearings, during which a person can potentially face thousands of dollars in penalties, or lose their license to operate altogether.
These predominantly immigrant drivers have families to feed and care for on incomes ranging from $20,000 to $40,000. A $2,000 fine amounts to 10 percent of a driver’s take home pay for the year, seriously cutting into the family’s budget for the most basic needs. The consequences have proven so dire that some taxi drivers have taken their own lives as a result.
The hearings at OATH are informal but do allow for opening and closing statements, and direct and cross-examinations, that generally result in winning the hearings and giving the drivers relief from onerous fines.
MFJ’s OATH clinic occurs every Thursday from 9-5 at 31-00 47th Avenue, 3rd Floor, Long Island City, NY 11101.
For more information about the OATH clinic, please contact Supervising Attorney, Montel Cherry, at firstname.lastname@example.org.