Liberty Justice Center attorneys Jacob Heubert and Greg Bedell were featured in a WJBC news article detailing their case involving Julie Crowe, a woman suing the city of Bloomington for denying her vehicle-for-hire license application in an effort to artificially limit competition.

Visit the Liberty Justice Center’s website here.

Woman sues city over business license denial


BLOOMINGTON – A woman has filed a lawsuit against the city of Bloomington, claiming city officials unfairly denied her license application to start a business driving downtown revelers home after closing time.

Julie Crowe of Bloomington filed her lawsuit Tuesday in McLean County court. The city denied her vehicle-for-hire application last year, after she sought permission to use a 15-passenger van to drive young people to and from downtown. The lawsuit claims the city violated her due-process rights.

City officials said last fall that they denied her application because her “cash flow limits the ability to perform,” and because the downtown transportation market was already saturated with competition. But limiting competition is an arbitrary reason to deny her application, and the decision violated her rights, according to attorney Jacob Huebert, associate counsel with the nonprofit Liberty Justice Center.

“The only way to know how much of a service is needed, and what form that service should take, is to let entrepreneurs like Julie enter the market and see who succeeds and who fails,” Huebert said at a press conference.

Huebert said the city did not allow Crowe, a Marine Corps veteran, the opportunity to cross-examine any of the would-be competitors who spoke out against her bid during a June 2011 hearing.

Crowe invested $12,000 to get the business started, her attorneys said, and had worked in the downtown transportation business for a separate company.

“I like the work. I like my customers. My customers liked me. I provided a safe transportation for the women, especially, who wanted that safe ride home,” Crowe said.

The Bloomington City Council upheld the Crowe denial during a meeting in September 2011, on an 8-1 vote. But some aldermen did question the process for denying an application based on competitive forces, and Mayor Steve Stockton recommended that the council study ways to improve the process.

The only alderman to vote against the denial, Ward 4 Alderman Judy Stearns, said she was concerned the application review process seemed “arbitrary,” according to minutes from the Sept. 26, 2011, meeting.

Bloomington city attorney Todd Greenburg said a “plaintiff has a right to ask a court to review the record of the administrative hearing regarding the denial of her license to operate a vehicle for hire company.”

“The City believes the record justifies the City’s action,” he said via email, declining further comment because he hadn’t fully reviewed the allegations.

Eric Stock contributed to this report.

Ryan Denham can be reached at ryan@wjbc.com.