Lawyer Loses Driver’s License Over Delinquent California Taxes

Photographer: Jack Smith/Bloomberg News.

California can suspend the driver’s license of an attorney who hadn’t paid his state taxes in almost 20 years, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said April 11.

The state laws that establish a list of the top 500 delinquent state taxpayers and allow the state to suspend the driver’s licenses of those on the list is constitutional, the opinion by Judge Barrington D. Parker, sitting by designation, said.

Attorney Ernest J. Franceschi Jr. owes California $242,276 in back taxes and is on the list. Franceschi claimed the scheme violates his procedural and substantive due process and equal protection rights.

Franceschi’s procedural due process rights weren’t violated because after he received his notice of revocation, and he could have paid his taxes and filed a claim for a refund before his license was suspended, the court said.

Owning a driver’s license isn’t a fundamental right, but pursuing a career is a liberty interest protected by substantive due process. Still, the court rejected Franceschi’s argument that suspension of his driver’s license violated his right to work.

Not having a license may make it more difficult for Franceschi to get to work, but it doesn’t amount to a complete ban on his ability to practice law, it said.

Suspension of Franceschi’s license doesn’t violate his equal protection rights, the court said. The scheme is rationally related to California’s significant interest in promptly collecting taxes, it said.

Judges Michael D. Hawkins and Sandra S. Ikuta joined the opinion.

Franceschi represented himself. The California Attorney General’s Office represented the state.

The case is Franceschi v. Yee , 2018 BL 127330, 9th Cir., No. 14-56493, 4/11/18.