July 23, 2001
I hereby file a formal grievance complaint against Michelle Manzione, a lawyer with her office in Bayside, Queens, New York.
Ms. Manzione is an Administrative Law Judge with the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. By way of background, I need to explain that in 1997 there were 50,000 licensed taxi drivers in New York City. Now, there are less than 40,000. More than 10,000 taxi drivers have had their licenses revoked and many more have simply left the industry because of the tremendous fines imposed by ALJ Manzione and the other Administrative Law Judges of the TLC. The reason is simple: In May, 1998, Mayor Giuliani declared his War on Taxi Drivers. This was announced in The New York Times and other major news publications. The object of this war, as announced by Mayor Giuliani, was "to weed out the bad taxi drivers". See The New York Times, May 13, 1998: "Giuliani Threatens Action If Cabbies Fail to Cancel a Protest" and May 15, 1998 "NYC Cabbies: Reckless Menaces or Exploited Victims?"
It is clear that the mayor ordered both the TLC Administrative Law Judges and the regular DMV Administrative Law Judges as well as the city traffic police to hit the taxi drivers with a blitz of tickets and fines. Even parking tickets were issued to taxi drivers who stopped to pick up passengers. There was not even one taxi driver in all of New York City who was not hit with these tickets, regardless of how reliable, careful or cautious they might have been.
In furtherance of this War on Taxi Drivers, the TLC has imposed such enormous fines that taxi drivers are unwilling to drive any more. Visitors to New York City find that they cannot hail a cab. None are to be found. Every day, thousands of taxis are sitting in their garages empty, because nobody is willing to drive them. Invalids and disabled persons who have no choice as they can not travel any other way than by taxi, cannot get transportation. Marriages fail, life savings are lost, children are left destitute and all this because ALJ Michelle Manzione and other Administrative Law Judges of the TLC lie, cheat and steal from the long suffering taxi drivers.
On October 2, 1997, the City of New York conducted an auction of 400 newly created taxi medallions. These medallions were sold at auction for more than $258,000 each, thereby bringing $10 million into the coffers of the city. However, after the Mayor declared his War on Taxi Drivers seven months later, the bottom fell out of the taxi medallion market. Now the price is offered at $200,000, no bid. Taxi drivers who had the misfortune to buy just before the Mayor declared his War on Taxi Drivers suddenly found that there was no market for the medallion which they had borrowed money from the bank and mortgaged their homes to buy. They just have to keep driving and hope that they will be able to pay down their debt.
While I present this particular case in which ALJ Manzione has lied, cheated and stolen from me, I want you to bear in mind that my case is not unusual. Every taxi driver in New York City has a similar story to tell. If you do not believe me, ask any taxi driver and he will talk your ear off about this. Because ALJ Manzione is a liar, a cheater and a thief, she ignores the law and disregards everything she was supposed to have learned in her legal training. She does this to keep her job, but in so doing she drags down the entire legal community. It seems that she has forgotten that she is a lawyer too and she fails to realize that she can be disbarred from the practice of law, which is exactly what I am asking you to do.
Even though the regular DMV judges, as opposed to the TLC judges, have participated in this by finding taxi drivers guilty even when they were clearly not, at least the DMV judges have sometimes given the drivers a break. If a driver is faced with a DMV ticket, there is at least some chance of being found not guilty or of having the ticket dismissed. In the TLC, however, there is no chance at all. The driver is always found guilty. The best the driver can hope for is that a fine of $200 will be reduced to only $150 because of "mitigating circumstances".
What ALJ Manzione has done, however, is more than just that. For the last two months, ALJ Manzione has blocked me from receiving a hack license, all because I blew the whistle on her and revealed on the Internet and elsewhere that she is a liar, a cheat and a thief. She has blacklisted me. I am now receiving almost daily calls from Tim Crowe, an investigator in the NYC Inspector General's Office of Fire, Taxi and Consumer Affairs. It is clear that ALJ Manzione is complaining about me and yet I am not allowed to know what her complaint is, as she has submitted nothing in writing. My most recent call about this came on the afternoon of Friday, July 20, 2001.
On June 26, 2001, I was required to appear at a "licensing standards hearing" before ALJ Greaves. I have never received any notice as to what this hearing was about. No charges or accusations of any kind have been made against me. No witnesses appeared against me. No documents were presented against me. Nevertheless, I was subjected to a "cross-examination" by ALJ Greaves. It was clear that she had been receiving telephone calls from ALJ Manzione and that, out of solidarity towards her fellow ALJ, she was not going to allow me to have a taxi driver's license.
What is often said is that by becoming taxi drivers, we have given up our constitutional rights. I disagree. Even taxi drivers, in spite of being a despised minority, have some constitutional rights. It is clear that several of my constitutional rights are being violated by ALJ Manzione. Among these are the right to be informed of the nature and the cause of the accusation against me and the right to be confronted by the witnesses against me. I have never been informed of any accusation against me and there has never been any witness against me.
I have spent more than $1300 (one thousand three hundred dollars) on this matter. I applied for a hack license on April 27, 2001. My license was checked and I was found to have a clean driving record and a clean TLC record.
I then took a physical examination and a drug test and passed. I paid for these tests. Then I took an 80 hour course required by the TLC. I then passed the geography and rules test and the English test with very high scores. I then waited to receive my license.
Every other applicant who passed the test on the same day that I did, which was May 18, 2001, was mailed his or her license on May 25. On June 1, 2001, when I had still not received my license in the mail, I called the TLC. I was informed by Miss Cipulyam at 718-391-5556 that she had run a "similar name scan" and had found an "old summons" which I needed to clear in order to get a TLC license. I told her that that was ridiculous because there was no such old summons. She directed me to Hanger 14 at JFK Airport, where she said that this matter was concerned.
I have never met or seen ALJ Michelle Manzione. I only know that she denied me any hearing at all, for the most ridiculous reasons imaginable, and indeed for no reasons at all.
When I arrived at Hanger 14 at JFK Airport, I was presented with a ticket which I had not seen before and could not possibly have seen, for several reasons. I enclose a copy of this ticket as an exhibit. This ticket was obviously invalid for several reasons. It was issued to TLC license # 5061483. I have never had that license number or anything like it. Also, it stated that it had been mailed to an address which was not my address of record and where I had not been. Also, there was a discrepancy in the name, as the ticket was issued to "Samuel H. Sloan" whereas the notice had been sent to "Samuel Sloan."
However, the record said that my license had been "suspended" for failure to appear at a hearing of which I had obviously never been notified. I was told that I could not have a TLC license until this suspension was cleared, even though I had never had the license which was allegedly suspended.
I will not go into what happened next, because that is described in my motion to vacate a copy of which is enclosed as an exhibit. After I submitted my motion, I was told that I would not be allowed to have a hearing on my motion or to appear before a judge. It would be decided on papers, I was told.
The decision I received, a copy of which is enclosed as an exhibit, was the most ridiculous thing imaginable. In just two short paragraphs, ALJ Manzione told four very obvious lies. Here is the decision:
"Motion to Vacate Denied
Driver admits in his motion that his DMV lic # is 799315111. According to TLC records, he filed an application & was assigned TLC license # 5061483. According to his TLC application and to his DMV license presented to the officer on August 19, 2000, his address is 24 6th Ave, Bklyn NY 11217. Notice of the hearing date scheduled (sent on 11/13/00) was sent to address on file with TLC via first class mail. Notice of hearing mailing was certified on 11/13/00. Delivery of notice was deemed proper."
Almost all of this is a lie. I never filed a taxi driver's application during the period in question. No such document exists. I was never assigned TLC license # 5061483. I have since found out that this is not even a TLC license number. No such license number exists. This number was apparently created by the Port Authority of New York, not by the TLC.
Also, the address given, which was "24 6th Ave, Bklyn NY 11217", was not "on file" with the TLC. No such file exists.
Finally, the decision states: "Notice of hearing mailing was certified on 11/13/00." This was not true either. The notice itself states on its face that it was sent by regular mail, not be certified mail.
This cannot be characterized as a simple human mistake by a judge. What clearly must have happened is that without even trying to look up my file ALJ Manzione concluded that the affidavit in my motion to vacate was false. However, she was not legally allowed to make such a determination without a fact hearing. This is the law, a law which ALJ Manzione obviously ignored. She had before no evidence whatever to contradict anything I said. She just did what all Administrative Law Judges of the TLC have become notorious for doing, which is deciding the case against the taxi driver without any factual basis for the decision.
This was not a trivial matter. The fine was $280 plus four points on my license. Under TLC Rules, a driver with 6 points on his license has his right to drive a taxi automatically suspended. Therefore, I had no choice but to fight this fine.
There is a clerk at the window at Hanger 14 of JFK Airport named Robin who I have since found out is notorious for being nasty and abusive towards taxi drivers. Many, many taxi drivers have had their licenses suspended or revoked because of Robin. This hits the drivers especially hard because often the taxis are physically seized at JFK Airport. As a result, the driver has lost more than just his license. He has lost his car and the medallion for which he paid $258,000.
In view of ALJ Manzione's decision dated June 5, 2001, I had no choice but to pay the fine of $280. However, when I went to JFK Airport on Friday, June 8 to pay the fine, I found out that the decision had not yet been entered. If I paid the fine before the decision was entered, I would lose all rights to appeal. Therefore, I politely asked Robin to see to it that the decision was entered so that I could appeal. Robin started screaming at me and told me to go to the TLC in Long Island City. I had already been there almost every day during this week and the TLC in Long Island City told me that they had nothing to do with this case, has not issued this ticket, and did not have any clue what this case was all about. This was specifically told to me by Mr. Mukuc, the supervisor of hearings on the third floor of TLC.
Therefore, I knew that what Robin was saying was wrong. Robin said, "I am not even going to talk to you" and left the room. Another lady came out and asked what the problem was. I explained simply that the decision had to be entered so that I could pay the fine. She seemed to have no difficulty understanding this and left the room. I waited about another hour and then a woman called me from a side door and told me to enter and pay the fine. I paid the fine and was given my clearance papers.
However, during the hour in which I waited I observed Robin call Roger Morgan. Supervisor of the TLC on the second floor of Long Island City. While I did not overhear the conversation, it was obvious that Robin was complaining about me.
When I arrived back at the TLC in Long Island City with my clearance papers, I was told by Roger Morgan that he had received a call from Hanger 14 of JFK Airport and he was waiting for a FAX from them and he was holding up my TLC license pending that FAX.
I now believe, however, that he never received a FAX. No such FAX appeared or was offered into evidence at the "licensing standards hearing" which was subsequently held on June 26. What I was questioned about instead was a petition for rehearing of the decision of ALJ Manzione which I had pushed through the window at Hanger 14 at JFK Airport but which Robin had pushed back at me. When I had not been allowed to file my petition for rehearing through the window, I had mailed two copies of it: One to Hanger 14 of JFK Airport and the other to the address of ALJ Manzione which I had obtained from the Office of Court Administration. I suspect that the copy I mailed to Hanger 14 of JKF Airport was thrown in the trash by Robin, as they are implying that they never received it.
I believe that ALJ Manzione must be disbarred from the practice of law because she has violated my constitutional; rights and she has ignored well established rules of law. No proper lawyer or judge would behave as she has done. She has caused me and my family tremendous harm. I have seven children and one more on the way. I was planning to get married to my pregnant girlfriend next month. Now I cannot, because I have no money. I have been prevented from working from May 25 to the present. Indeed, it could have been much worse. My girlfriend several times threatened to abort our baby because of this. Fortunately, she is now too far along to do that. It is also fortunate that I have not yet been evicted from my apartment, because that could have happened too. All these consequences logically follow from the illegal and indeed criminal acts of Administrative Law Judge Michelle Manzione, a lawyer whom I have never met or seen and whom I know nothing about outside of this case.
Accordingly, I demand that Michelle Manzione be permanently disbarred from the practice of law.
Numerous exhibits supporting these claims are enclosed.