PORTLAND, Maine — A local taxi driver who sued the city alleging that its system of permitting cabs discriminates against him and other white drivers had his appeal denied by a federal court Monday.
In 2014, Paul McDonough filed a lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court arguing that the city had violated the Maine Human Rights Act by perpetuating a system in which only Somali and Iranian taxi drivers can secure potentially lucrative permits to serve airport passengers.
The suit was removed to a federal court, which summarily ruled against McDonough, finding he was not actually prepared to apply for a permit.
The South Portland cab driver then appealed this decision to the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, which also ruled against him Monday. A three judge panel affirmed the lower court’s finding that McDonough had not demonstrated that he would likely pay the $800 application fee for a permit to wait for passengers at the Portland International Jetport and therefore lacked the standing to bring a discrimination suit.
In written 2016 testimony included in the court’s decision, McDonough said that at the age of 71 he doesn’t know how much longer he intends to drive a cab and would only apply for a permit if he can physically continue to work and change his schedule to match flight arrival times.
The decision does not delve into McDonough’s claim that the permitting system discriminates against white drivers. The city has denied this charge and said that the number of Somali and Iranian drivers is the result of “happenstance.”
In 2013, the city reduced the number of permits to serve the airport from 50 to 45 and established a lottery system among existing permit holders to determine who would receive the coveted slots.
McDonough said in his suit that he sought to apply for a permit in 2013, but wasn’t allowed to because he didn’t hold a permit at the time.
The city and McDonough’s lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.