Taxi Freedom Wins; Judge Rejects Cab Owners’ Attempt to Halt New Taxi License Program

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · September 12, 2014

Milwaukee, Wis.— Today federal district judge Lynn Adelman ruled that the city of Milwaukee’s recent decision to lift the 22-year old cap on the number of taxicabs could go forward as planned.

“The owner’s lawsuit was always a last-ditch attempt to preserve their monopoly in Milwaukee,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Anthony Sanders. “The owners’ eleventh hour attempt to keep their cartel in place has failed. With today’s ruling, we’re one step closer to bringing the city’s public transportation system into the twenty-first century.”

The judge denied an attempt by some existing taxi owners, including the biggest, Joe Sanfelippo Cabs, Inc., to stop the city from issuing new licenses. The judge pointed to the prior ruling, on April 16, 2013, by Judge Jane Carroll of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court declaring the former cap to be unconstitutional under the Wisconsin Constitution, as a sufficient justification for the city liberating its drivers and consumers from the cap.

In his analysis Judge Adelman also found that it would be against the public interest to prevent the city from issuing more taxicab permits. He stated “prior to the new ordinance, there was a substantial demand for taxicab permits which were capped at a number lower than in 1992. It is not in the public interest for qualified individuals who seek such permits not to be able to obtain them.”
The Institute for Justice represents two Milwaukee cab drivers who have asked to intervene in the case, Jatinder Cheema and Saad Malik. Cheema was also one of the plaintiffs in the original case before Judge Carroll. While the drivers are not technically yet parties in the case, their IJ attorney Anthony Sanders argued in court alongside the city against the owners’ attempt to put the cap back in place.

In response to today’s ruling, Cheema stated “I am very relieved that the city remains free from the cap. Drivers such as myself can now continue to obtain our new taxi permits and own our own cabs.” In addition, Malik said “this is a great day for drivers and riders in the city. All of us with new cabs can now go forward and serve the public without fear.”

The judge did not throw the case out of court, as that question was not before him, but Cheema, Malik, and IJ intend on asking for that as the case goes forward.

The Institute for Justice has helped open taxi markets in Denver, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Minneapolis and for more than 20 years has been the nation’s leading legal advocate for the rights of entrepreneurs.
For more on this case, visit

For more on the prior lawsuit to open Milwaukee’s taxi market, visit