Jefferson Parish judges in two separate cases Tuesday denied a request by parish officials to temporarily ban the ride-hailing service Uber from operating without the certificates required of drivers of taxis and other commercial vehicles.
Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee, in two civil actions brought on Oct. 6, asked judges in 1st Parish Court to issue temporary restraining orders against Uber, its subsidiary Raiser and drivers John Virga and Huan Ping Wu to stop them from picking up riders in Jefferson Parish.
Judges Rebecca Olivier and Johnny Lee both refused to issue the TROs but set hearings Nov. 12 to hear arguments on whether at least a preliminary injunction is in order.
Uber spokesman Bill Gibbons called Tuesday’s decisions “a win for the thousands of drivers and riders who rely on (the) company for economic opportunity and access to safe transportation options in Jefferson Parish.”
Foshee said her office is reviewing its options and preparing for November’s hearings.
The parish in late September also sued at least eight other individuals who drive for Uber or have loaned their cars to Uber drivers and are accused of violating a parish ordinance requiring commercial drivers to have “certificates of public necessity and convenience” as well as state laws requiring specialized licenses and plates for commercial drivers. The suits, which are all still pending in 1st Parish Court, seek to impose fines on the defendants.
The position of Uber, whose customers purchase rides using a mobile app, has been that no ordinance in Jefferson Parish prevents the company from operating.
The Parish Council during the spring considered a measure that would have permitted Uber and similar companies to pick up rides in Jefferson’s unincorporated areas after the New Orleans City Council ratified similar legislation. But the council defeated the measure after some members said the proposed rules would have created an unequal playing field with the taxi industry, whose fares are typically higher due to heavy regulation.
Uber nonetheless expanded into Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes in late June and apparently found plenty of customers and drivers.
St. Tammany officials have welcomed Uber, but the sizable taxi industry in Jefferson has been constantly pressuring parish officials to punish the company if it does not comply with the same rules that cabbies must. A large contingent of cab drivers recently showed up at a Parish Council meeting and demanded that Foshee somehow block Uber’s app from accepting ride requests originating anywhere in Jefferson.
Foshee said she would look into that possibility but doubted that it was feasible.
Gibbons said, “We hope Jefferson Parish officials follow the lead of their neighbors in New Orleans and St. Tammany Parish and take this opportunity to again pursue a permanent solution for ride sharing that their constituents demand.”