Dan King
Dan King · May 1, 2024

HOUSTON—On Tuesday, Judge Beau Miller denied the city of Pasadena’s latest attempt to have a lawsuit brought against it by a local mechanic thrown out. Azael “Oz” Sepulveda, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), filed a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations and breach of contract in September 2023, after the city refused to let him open his one-man auto shop despite agreeing to do so more than a year earlier, to settle Oz’s first lawsuit.  

During a hearing on Monday, the city argued it was immune from Oz’s lawsuit seeking to enforce the settlement agreement the city agreed to, but Judge Miller disagreed. 

“I think it’d be really bad public policy for a city … to enter into a settlement agreement to get out of a case and then turn back around and say, ‘we’re not going to do it because we’re immune,’” Judge Miller said during the hearing. 

Oz first sued the city in December 2021, after being told he could not open his one-man auto mechanic shop until he added 23 additional parking spaces to a property that had been used to repair vehicles for decades—which Oz could not afford, did not need, and would not physically fit on the property. Oz won a temporary injunction when a judge determined that the city’s demands violated Oz’s constitutional rights in March 2022. Two months later, the city and Oz reached a settlement that would allow him to open his shop with just a handful of parking spots. In the two years since then, the city has given Oz the runaround and refused to comply with the agreement, leading to his second lawsuit. 

“The whole time that this has been going on, I’ve had to pay rent at my current shop so I can continue to work, while also paying the mortgage for my new shop, which the city won’t let me open,” said Oz. “I just want to work, and I don’t know why the city won’t let me. I hope the city will hold up its end of the bargain so I can finally put all this behind me and stop losing money.” 

Continuing its efforts to hinder Oz’s business, the city has argued that it is immune from the lawsuit seeking to enforce the settlement agreement that it signed. The judge rejected the city’s arguments, concluding, “I do think it’s disappointing that the city takes some of the positions it’s taking … that’s very, very sad in some respects.” Nevertheless, the city appealed the decision.

“It’s a shame that the city would rather waste more time and taxpayer money fighting this with an appeal than just abiding by the settlement it agreed to and letting Oz open,” said IJ Attorney Diana Simpson. “We will fight for Oz for as long as it takes to get him open.”