FROM THE NEW MEXICO PUBLIC REGULATION COMMISSION
Cadigan Law Firm, P.C. Michael J. Cadigan Albuquerque, NM for
Appellant Albuquerque Cab Company, Inc.
Sanchez, Mowrer & Desiderio, P.C. Armand Damacio Huertaz
Raymond G. Sanchez Albuquerque, NM for Appellant
Yellow-Checker Cab Company, Inc.
Ellen Amer Santa Fe, NM for Appellee
Marks Law, LLC Jason A. Marks Albuquerque, NM for Intervener
CHARLES W. DANIELS, Justice
This is a direct appeal from a final order of the New Mexico
Public Regulation Commission (PRC) granting a taxicab
certificate to Q Cab for a new taxicab service in
Albuquerque. This Court consolidated two separate appeals of
that order by two preexisting Bernalillo County taxicab
companies, Albuquerque Cab Company (Albuquerque Cab) and
Yellow-Checker Cab Company (Yellow Cab).
This case came before the PRC under recently amended portions
of the Motor Carrier Act, NMSA 1978, § 65-2A-1 to -41
(2003, as amended through 2017). The 2013 amendments created
separate designations for "municipal" and
"general" taxicab services, see §
65-2A-3(T)(3), (U)(2) (2013), and added a definition of
fitness, Section 65-2A-3(R) (2013), which a candidate taxicab
company must show and the PRC must find before an applicant
may operate, see § 65-2A-8(B)(1). The parties
ask this Court to interpret the Motor Carrier Act with
respect to both the parameters of fitness and the privileges
and responsibilities of existing municipal taxicabs when they
protest new taxicab applications.
On December 28, 2015, Q Cab, LLC applied to the PRC for a
certificate to provide general taxicab services on a small
scale within Bernalillo County. On January 13, 2016, Yellow
Cab filed a protest and motion to intervene. Yellow Cab is a
municipal taxicab company operating in Bernalillo and
Sandoval counties. On January 19, 2016, Albuquerque Cab filed
a protest of and objection to Q Cab's application.
Albuquerque Cab is also a municipal taxicab company operating
in Albuquerque and surrounding areas. Both protesting
companies had territories that overlapped with the territory
Q Cab had proposed for its operation.
The PRC designated a hearing examiner to consider Q Cab's
application along with the protests and to draft a
recommended decision for the PRC. The hearing examiner
conducted a public hearing on May 9 and 10, 2016. On August
15, 2016, the hearing examiner recommended that the PRC
reject arguments of Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab that they
are municipal taxicab companies statutorily protected against
Q Cab's entry into the market. The hearing examiner also
found that Q Cab was not fit and able to provide general
taxicab service and that granting its application would be
contrary to the public interest. The hearing examiner
recommended that the PRC deny Q Cab's application. On
August 29, 2016, Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab each filed
exceptions to the recommended decision relating to their
protected status, and Q Cab and PRC Transportation Division
staff filed joint exceptions relating to the issue of Q
Cab's fitness. On October 5, 2016, the PRC voted to adopt
the recommendation of the hearing examiner denying
Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab the claimed statutory
protection and to adopt the joint exceptions filed by Q Cab
and PRC Transportation Division staff and thereby reject the
recommended finding that Q Cab was unfit to operate. The PRC
approved Q Cab's application.
Additional facts are set forth below as they pertain to each
Jurisdiction and Standard of Review
The New Mexico Supreme Court has jurisdiction over this
appeal pursuant to Section 65-2A-35(A) and Rule 12-102(A)(2)
NMRA of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
In reviewing orders of the PRC, the Supreme Court must
determine whether the PRC decision is "arbitrary and
capricious, not supported by substantial evidence, outside
the scope of the agency's authority, or otherwise
inconsistent with law." Att'y Gen. of
N.M. v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm'n, 2011-NMSC-034,
¶ 9, 150 N.M. 174, 258 P.3d 453; see §
"'[A]n agency's action is arbitrary and
capricious if it provides no rational connection between the
facts found and the choices made, or entirely omits
consideration of relevant factors or important aspects of the
problem at hand.'" Colonias Dev. Council v.
Rhino Envtl. Servs. Inc., 2005-NMSC-024, ¶ 41, 138
N.M. 133, 117 P.3d 939 (alteration in original) (citation
omitted). "An agency abuses its discretion when its
decision is not in accord with legal procedure or supported
by its findings, or when the evidence does not support its
findings." Oil Transp. Co. v. N.M. State Corp.
Comm'n, 1990-NMSC-072, ¶ 25, 110 N.M. 568, 798
P.2d 169. "[S]ubstantial evidence means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion, " Toltec Int'l, Inc. v.
Village of Ruidoso, 1980-NMSC-115, ¶ 3, 95 N.M. 82,
619 P.2d 186, "'and we neither reweigh the evidence
nor replace the fact finder's conclusions with our own,
'" Albuquerque Bernalillo Cty. Water Util. Auth.
v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm'n, 2010-NMSC-013,
¶ 18, 148 N.M. 21, 229 P.3d 494 (citation omitted).
When a final order turns on an agency's determination of
matters within its special expertise, this Court gives
heightened deference to the agency's determination.
See Morningstar Water Users Ass'n v. N.M. Pub. Util.
Comm'n, 1995-NMSC-062, ¶ 11, 120 N.M. 579, 904
P.2d 28. However, "we apply a de novo standard of review
to the PRC's rulings regarding statutory
construction." Albuquerque Bernalillo Cty. Water
Util. Auth., 2010-NMSC-013, ¶ 50. We read related
statutes in harmony and give effect to all provisions. El
Paso Elec. Co. v. N.M. Pub. Regulation
Comm'n, 2010-NMSC-048, ¶ 7, 149 N.M. 174, 246
Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab Are Not Statutorily
Protected from Competing Applicants
As providers of municipal taxicab services, Albuquerque Cab
and Yellow Cab hold certificates under the amended Motor
Carrier Act, issued by the PRC soon after the 2013 amendments
took effect. They argue that these certificates protect them
from Q Cab's entry into their full-service territories
under Section 65-2A-13(D)(2), which specifies that the PRC
"shall not grant an application . . . for a new
certificate for general taxicab service within the
full-service territory of a protesting municipal taxicab
General and municipal taxicab companies are regulated
differently. A ...