A judge has denied a request from Nevada's attorney general to temporarily shut down the ride-sharing company Uber's operations in the state.
Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Herndon refused to issue the temporary order sought by the Nevada Transportation Authority on Wednesday, saying Uber doesn't pose immediate risks to public safety.
Uber has faced fierce opposition from the state's heavily regulated taxi industry, where cabs make 2 million to 3 million trips a month, largely in the popular Las Vegas Strip area and nearby airport. Cabs can line up at Strip casino-hotels. But they face steep fines if they pick up tourists on the side of the road who might want to hail a cab.
Uber has said its drivers wouldn't pick up passengers at the airport or on the Strip but would drop them off at both places.
Customers using Uber first download an app to their smartphones, sign up for an account and provide their credit card information used to pay for the ride. When they request a ride, the app provides an estimated arrival and fare before the passenger confirms and an Uber driver agrees to provide the ride.
Nevada regulators have attempted to shut down Uber since it launched Friday and have impounded at least 15 cars. In some cases, transportation authority investigators have posed as riders to alert the agency's enforcement officers who arrive and search the driver and vehicle and issue citations.
The company, though, has been defiant and continued to operate.
Two judges in northern Nevada had already approved the state's requests for temporary orders calling for Uber to stop. Those orders don't appear to have a geographic limit, but Uber's attorney, Donald Campbell, has argued they don't apply statewide and that both are void because Uber wasn't notified before the orders were requested.
It wasn't clear how or if Herndon's denial would affect the other two orders.
Herndon appeared to agree with Uber attorneys that the attorney general may have sought the order against the wrong company.
Despite Uber's name and logo being used to recruit drivers and advertise its service to customers in front-page newspaper advertisements, the company's attorneys contend a wholly owned subsidiary called Rasier is actually the business that contracts with drivers and holds the insurance.
Uber, rather, provides the technological software that Rasier licenses to link drivers with interested passengers, Campbell said. "They own software — and that's all they own," he said of Uber.
Deputy Attorney General David Newton argued that Uber sets the rate and collects the money from rides. "It's clear that Uber is the one driving the bus," he said.
Herndon appeared to take issue that Uber's freelance drivers posed an immediate danger to the public. "They are people who are driving out there anyway," he said.
As for the state's argument that Uber doesn't do enough to check the backgrounds of its drivers compared to the procedures traditional taxi drivers undergo to be licensed, Herndon said no amount of screening would necessarily find every psychopath. Having a disturbed worker can happen in any business, he said.
Herndon said he also thinks competition in business is a great thing.
In some cases, technology has passed up existing laws, he said, referring to arguments from both sides about the state's legal definition of a taxicab.
Herndon set a hearing for the state's motion for a preliminary injunction against Uber for 10 a.m. Nov. 14.