Judge refuses to shut down Lyft in New Mexico, says jurisdiction of state regulator unclear

A New Mexico judge has refused to bar a ride-hailing service from operating in the state, saying a state regulator's authority is unclear.

State District Judge Raymond Ortiz declined Thursday to enforce a cease-and-desist order issued against Lyft by the Public Regulation Commission six months ago, the Santa Fe New Mexican (http://goo.gl/sQQ1MA ) reported.

Ortiz said he doesn't have jurisdiction over Lyft because the commission itself hasn't yet decided whether it has regulatory authority over Lyft and another company, Uber.

Both companies use smartphone technology to line up passengers for their contracted drivers. Those drivers use their own vehicles to provide rides.

The companies compete with traditional cab companies, which are regulated by the commission.

Taxi companies have been urging the commission to assert its regulatory authority and rule that Lyft and Uber cannot operate without state certification.

Commission staff attorney Michael C. Smith had encouraged Ortiz to enforce the order.

Lyft threatens public safety because it has not established that it has proper insurance coverage and thorough background checks of drivers it uses, Smith said.

Smith also said Lyft is flouting New Mexico law by carrying passengers without authorization from the Public Regulation Commission.

Lyft attorney Nann Winter argued that Ortiz did not have jurisdiction in the case. She said actions by the Public Regulation Commission are subject to review by the state Supreme Court, not lower courts.

The commission has never issued a full and final order on whether it claims to have authority over Lyft and Uber.

Members of the Public Regulation Commission have been divided over whether Lyft and Uber should be able to operate in New Mexico without government supervision.