Armenian American cab drivers sue to stop Santa Monica regulation

A judge Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order barring Santa Monica from instituting a new taxi franchising system that a group of Armenian American cab drivers say discriminates against them.

Judge Robert H. O'Brien gave attorneys until Jan. 7 to show why the preliminary injunction shouldn't be granted in the case filed by the Taxi Drivers Assn. of Santa Monica, which sued the city Tuesday in civil court in downtown Los Angeles.

The association represents five cab companies owned or operated by Armenian Americans — and 300 Armenian American cabbies — who were all denied franchise licenses with the city.

"If this [restraining order] had not been issued, approximately 300 Armenian American cab drivers operating within the city of Santa Monica would have their licenses to operate their cabs revoked," said Tamar Arminak of the Geragos & Geragos law firm, which represents the cabbies.

Santa Monica officials could not be reached for comment.

The controversy began in June when the city, after reviewing franchise applications, chose five of 13 cab companies, none of which are Armenian-owned or -operated.

About 100 cab drivers showed up in court Tuesday. Arminak said they were worried they would be jobless come the new year.

"They are relieved they can continue supporting their families as a result of the court ruling," Arminak said.

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