Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Transportation Law

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Scenic filed suit challenging a guidance memorandum issued by the FHWA in 2007, which interpreted the prohibition on “flashing, intermittent or moving” lights to permit state approval of those digital billboards that met certain timing and brightness requirements. The Highway Beautification Act (HBA), 23 U.S.C. 131, requires the FHWA and each state to develop and implement individual federal-state agreements (FSAs), detailing, among other things, “size, lighting and spacing” standards for the billboards now found towering over many of our country’s interstate highways. The court held that it lacks jurisdiction to hear Scenic's notice-and-comment claim because Scenic failed to demonstrate that it has standing to bring that challenge. The court concluded that Scenic has standing to bring a claim under section 706 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706, and that the Guidance constitutes final agency action. On the merits, the court concluded that, because the FHWA’s interpretation of the FSA lighting provision was reasonable, the interpretation cannot be “contrary to customary use.” Accordingly, Scenic's claim under section 706 fails. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for dismissal of Scenic's notice-and-comment claim. View "Scenic America, Inc. v. US DOT" on Justia Law

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Petitioner seeks review of the Board's denial of his request to reopen the Board's 1999 benefits determination. The court concluded that the Railroad Retirement Act, 45 U.S.C. 231g, grants the court jurisdiction to review Board decisions denying requests to reopen initial benefits determinations. The court concluded, however, that the Board’s decision to deny petitioner's request to reopen was reasonable where it was reasonable for the Board to conclude that there were no errors in the allocation of petitioner's earnings that, if corrected, would have given him insured status at the time of the decision. Further, petitioner provided little to no explanation of how his initial decision contained a clerical error or an error that appears on the face of the evidence. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Stovic v. RRRB" on Justia Law

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Silverado Stages, a California charter bus service, petitioned for review of the FMCSA's determination denying Silverado's petition for administrative review after the FMCSA publicly reported that Silverado violated a number of federal and state safety regulations. The court concluded that Silverado's contention that the FMCSA's dismissal of Silverado's petition was arbitrary and capricious lacks merit because the FMCSA was not required to provide Silverado with any more process than it received. The court also concluded that Silverado's contention that the violations issued against it are invalid because they were not promulgated pursuant to notice-and-comment procedures and because they constitute impermissible sanctions are foreclosed by the court's decision in Weaver v. FMCSA. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Silverado Stages, Inc. v. FMCSA" on Justia Law

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) prohibited Ege, a pilot for Emirates Airlines, from flying to, from, or over the United States. Ege had experienced travel problems and had submitted an online inquiry to the DHS’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. He believes the TSA’s prohibition is based on his alleged inclusion on the “No-Fly List,” a subset of the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) used by the TSA to “deny boarding of individuals on commercial aircraft operated by U.S. carriers or flying to, from, or over the United States.” He sought removal from the No-Fly List or, at a minimum, a “meaningful opportunity to be heard.” The D.C. Circuit dismissed his petition for lack of standing and lack of jurisdiction. Neither the TSA nor the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the only two rnamed agencies, has “authority to decide whose name goes on the No-Fly List.” The Terrorist Screening Center, which is administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation), is “the sole entity with both the classified intelligence information” Ege wants and “the authority to remove” names from the No-Fly List/TSDB. View "Ege v. Dep't of Homeland Sec." on Justia Law

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After the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, that Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7521(a))requires regulation of greenhouse gases emitted from vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued coordinated rules governing the greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy of cars and trucks. In 2012 the D.C. Circuit upheld EPA’s car emission standards. Opponents, including purchasers of new vehicles and POP, a business that makes after-market modifications to diesel engines enabling them to run on vegetable oil, then challenged the car rules on procedural grounds; challenged EPA’s truck standards on procedural grounds; and challenged both agencies’ regulations concerning trucks as arbitrary and capricious. The D.C. Circuit declined to reach the merits. The purchasers of new vehicles, arguing that EPA neglected to comply with a nondiscretionary statutory duty to provide its emission standards to the Science Advisory Board prior to issuing them, lacked standing, having failed to identify a discrete injury that a favorable decision by the court would remedy. POP’s interest in promoting alternative fuel does not fall within the zone of interests protected by 42 U.S.C. 7521, the provision of the Clean Air Act governing emissions standards for motor vehicles. View "Delta Constr. Co. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency" on Justia Law

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The TSA screens passengers and property moving by passenger aircraft, 49 U.S.C. 44901(a) and is authorized to impose a “uniform fee . . . on passengers . . . in air transportation and intrastate air transportation originating at airports in the United States.” Airlines collect the fees from passengers and remit the funds to TSA. In 2013, Congress reset the fee to “$5.60 per one-way trip in air transportation or intrastate air transportation that originates at an airport in the United States.” TSA implemented the amendment; a “one-way trip” means a continuous trip from one point to another with no stopover exceeding specified limits, so that a trip from New York to Los Angeles to San Francisco and back to New York, with stopovers exceeding four hours would be three one-way trips. Airlines challenged TSA’s rules, arguing that TSA lacked authority to impose fees in excess of $11.20 on roundtrip itineraries that involved multiple “one-way trips.” While the case was pending, Congress amended the statute, mooting that claim. The airlines also claimed that the statute precludes TSA from charging a fee on travel that begins abroad but includes a connecting flight within the U.S. The D.C. Circuit held that the airlines have standing but accepted TSA’s explanation that its construction of ambiguous text better aligns the imposition of the fee with those who benefit from the security services provided. View "Airlines for Am. v. Transp. Sec. Admin" on Justia Law

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After the FAA suspended petitioner's license as an airplane mechanic, the NTSB vacated the suspension and found that the FAA's position had been unreasonable and not substantially justified. Petitioner filed suit seeking recovery of legal fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 5 U.S.C. 504(a)(1). The NTSB denied fee-shifting under the Act because it concluded that petitioner had not "incurred" the fees associated with his legal defense in the license suspension proceedings. The court held that the NTSB's conclusion was arbitrary and capricious where the NTSB should have considered that under the Alabama law of quantum meruit, petitioner was obligated to pay his attorneys for the value of their services. Therefore, petitioner "incurred" fees and may obtain EAJA fee-shifting. The court granted the petition, vacated the decision, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Roberts v. NTSB" on Justia Law

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New York City filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that Amtrak was liable for rehabilitation of a bridge carrying a public highway over a parcel of land in the Bronx. In this appeal, the City asserts that a 1996 agreement obligating Amtrak's predecessor to maintain and repair the bridge is a covenant running with the land which survived the land's subsequent Rail Act, 45 U.S.C. 743(b)(2), conveyance made "free and clear of any liens or encumbrances." The City also seeks to recoup payments it made to Amtrak in exchange for Amtrak's removal of electrical equipment attached to the bridge. The district court granted summary judgment to Amtrak on both claims. The district court held that the Rail Act extinguished the obligation and the City was not entitled to recover its already-incurred costs under the narrow theory of restitution it advanced. The court agreed with the district court that the City's claim against Amtrak for the rehabilitation of the bridge should be rejected. The court rejected the City's reformulated restitution claim as an "unjust enrichment" claim because the City failed to file a Rule 59(e) or 60(b)(6) motion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "City of New York v. Nat'l Railroad Passenger Corp." on Justia Law

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The Neutrality Act, 18 U.S.C. 962, passed in 1794, is generally recognized as the first instance of municipal legislation in support of the obligations of neutrality. The Act makes it unlawful to furnish, fit out, or arm a vessel within the U.S. with the intent of having the vessel used in the service of a foreign state or people to commit hostilities against another foreign state or people with whom the U.S. is at peace. Vessels covered by the Act are subject to forfeiture, and persons who give information leading to the seizure of such vessels may recover a bounty. Bauer sought to pursue a claim under the Act, claiming to have informed the government of vessels that had been funded, furnished, and fitted by anti-Israel organizations in the U.S., together with violent and militant anti-Israel organizations from other countries. The complaint alleged that the vessels were to be employed in the service of Hamas, a terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, to commit hostilities against Israel. The district court dismissed, holding that the statute lacks an express private cause of action. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, holding that informers lack standing to sue on their own. View "Bauer v. Mavi Marmara" on Justia Law

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Bus driver Bumpass hit the brakes as he approached a stop sign. Robinson, a standing passenger on the bus, fell backward and broke her leg. Robinson sued WMATA, claiming that Bumpass violated WMATA’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) and that the “jerk” caused by Bumpass’ application of the brakes was of such extraordinary force that his negligence could be inferred. Bumpass admitted that he did not check his mirror before leaving the stop that morning. He knew there were several open seats up front, he said, and he assumed Robinson had sat down by the time he closed the doors and started driving. Robinson testified that the bus was going “fast, faster than normal buses,” and that it “was jerking and then [there] was an abrupt stop.” The district court rejected a jury award of $404,713.28. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, holding that a reasonable jury could not have decided in Robinson’s favor. Robinson failed to establish a causal relationship between Bumpass’ deviation from SOPs and her injury; unusual and extraordinary force cannot be inferred from mere descriptive adjectives and conclusions alone. View "Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth." on Justia Law