Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Transportation Law
BNSF Railway v. FRA
BNSF Railway Co. (“BNSF”) petitions for review, contending that the refusal of the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) to grant a waiver of standard track-inspection regulations so that BNSF could test a new technology was arbitrary and capricious. The Fifth Circuit granted review, vacated, and remanded for reconsideration. The court explained that “Agency action must be reasonable and reasonably explained.” The agency must “articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action, including a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made. Here, the court found that the FRA’s letter lacking in this regard. Therefore, on limited remand, the court directed the FRA to enter its decision no later than one hundred days from the announcement of the court’s opinion. View "BNSF Railway v. FRA" on Justia Law
Ramirez v. Super. Ct.
Appellant California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) appealed from a judgment granting Plaintiff’s petition for writ of mandate (judgment). DMV contends the issues presented on appeal are whether the trial court erred in overturning the suspension of Plaintiff’s driver’s license (1) “by applying [former] Government Code section 11440.30. The Fifth Appellate District affirmed the “Judgment Granting Petition For Writ Of Mandate And Awarding Costs And Attorney Fees To Petitioner” and remanded the cause to the court below, with directions to modify the judgment to provide that the matter shall thereafter be remanded to the DMV for further proceedings. The court concluded that former Government Code section 11440.30 was applicable to Plaintiff’s DMV driver’s license suspension hearing. Said former statute is fully consistent with other relevant statutes, including, without limitation, Vehicle Code sections 14100 through 14112 and Government Code section 11501. Further, the court concluded that both CCR section 115.07 and former Government Code section 11440.30 were mandatory and not merely directory. Moreover, substantial evidence supports an implied finding that Plaintiff was prejudiced by DMV’s failure to adhere to former government code section 11440.30. View "Ramirez v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
In re: Flyers Rights Education Fund, Inc.
Flyers Rights and its current president have taken aim at the small size of airline seats. In their view, small seats slow emergency evacuations and cause medical problems like blood clots. They have petitioned for a writ of mandamus ordering the FAA “to commence rulemaking to establish minimum seat size and spacing requirements for commercial aircraft and to issue a final rule by a date certain.” The DC Circuit denied Flyers Rights’ petition. The court held that Flyers Rights lacks a clear and indisputable right to relief. That’s because the FAA Reauthorization Act speaks only of seat-size regulations that “are necessary for the safety of passengers,” and on the record before the court, the necessity of those regulations is neither clear nor indisputable. View "In re: Flyers Rights Education Fund, Inc." on Justia Law
CENTER FOR COMMUNITY ACTION, ET AL V. FAA, ET AL
To comply with their duties under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the FAA issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) that evaluated the environmental effects of the construction and operation of an Amazon air cargo facility at the San Bernardino International Airport (the “Project”). In evaluating the environmental consequences of the Project, the FAA generally utilized two “study areas” – the General Study Area and the Detailed Study Area. Petitioners are the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice and others (collectively “CCA”) and the State of California. In attacking the parameters of the study areas, the CCA asserted that the FAA did not conform its study areas to the FAA’s Order 1050.1F Desk Reference. The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order amending the opinion initially filed on November 18, 2021, and amended on October 11, 2022; and (2) an amended opinion denying a petition for review challenging the FAA’s Record of Decision, which found no significant environmental impact stemming from the Project. The panel held that the FAA’s nonadherence to the Desk Reference could not alone serve as the basis for holding that the FAA did not take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of the Project. Instead, the CCA must show that the FAA’s nonadherence to the Desk Reference had some sort of EA significance aside from simply failing to follow certain Desk Reference instructions. The panel held that the CCA had not done so here. The panel rejected Petitioners’ argument that the EA failed to assess whether the Project met California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards. View "CENTER FOR COMMUNITY ACTION, ET AL V. FAA, ET AL" on Justia Law
City of Ames v. Iowa Public Employment Relations Bd.
The Supreme Court held that the Iowa Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) and the district court misinterpreted Iowa Code 20.32 by extending broader bargaining rights to nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit as public transit employees, holding that the plain meaning of the statute protects only transit employees, not nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit.The City of Ames sought guidance as to whether section 20.32 requires broader bargaining rights for nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit. PERB concluded that broader bargaining rights must be extended under the statute to nontransit employees in a bargaining unit consisting of at least thirty percent transit employees, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the City was not required to provide broader bargaining rights to nontransit employees, regardless of the percentage of transit employees in the bargaining unit. View "City of Ames v. Iowa Public Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law
Marin v. Department of Transportation
Decedent was employed by Jones as a construction worker. Jones was under contract with DOT to perform construction work on I-580 in Oakland. Much of this work was performed at night because it required lane closures. A car operated by a drunk driver entered the closed lanes of the project site and struck Decedent, who died on the scene. A wrongful death lawsuit against DOT asserted vicarious liability for the negligence of its employees; failure to discharge a mandatory duty; and dangerous condition on public property. The court dismissed the mandatory duty claim. DOT offered evidence that it did not instruct or control Jones as to how to comply with its safety obligations but that Jones complied with its safety plan on the night in question and that the contract between DOT and Jones delegated to Jones the responsibility for selecting the means for performing, including ensuring worker safety.The trial court concluded DOT was not liable for Decedent’s death as a matter of law because DOT delegated to Jones its duty to provide a safe work environment and the conduct of the drunk driver was not reasonably foreseeable. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that admissible evidence was wrongfully excluded. Plaintiffs failed to present evidence that DOT retained control over the construction site and actually exercised that control in such a way as to affirmatively contribute to Decedent's injuries, as required under California law. View "Marin v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law
Larson v. Pleasant Grove City
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court concluding that Pleasant Grover (City) had the power to enact a three-tiered "transportation utility fee" (TUF) but reversed the court's ruling that the TUF was actually a tax, holding that remand was required.The subject TUF charged local property owners a monthly fee corresponding to the "intensity" with which they used City roads, as determined by a study of user demand on the City's roadways, and the generated funds were to be used to repair and maintain city roadways only. At issue was whether the City had the authority to enact the TUF and whether the City properly characterized the TUF as a fee or if it was in fact a tax requiring the City to follow specific enactment procedures. The district court held that the TUF was actually a tax based on its purpose. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the City acted within its discretion in enacting the TUF; but (2) the purpose of the TUF was characteristic of a fee because it was a specific charge for a specific purpose. View "Larson v. Pleasant Grove City" on Justia Law
Blazine Monaco v. WV Parkways Authority
Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of her putative class action against the West Virginia Parkways Authority, in which she alleges that the Parkways Authority improperly collected fees. And the Parkways Authority appeals the district court’s holding that it was not entitled to sovereign immunity under the United States or West Virginia Constitutions. Plaintiff relied on the Class Action Fairness Act for jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the case remanded to the district court with directions to dismiss without prejudice. The court concluded that here, Section 1332(d)(5)(A) bars jurisdiction under Section 1332(d)(2) of the Class Action Fairness Act. The court explained that the Parkways Authority is the only, and thus “primary,” defendant. And it is a “governmental entity.” The Parkways Authority’s sovereign-immunity claim is strong enough to conclude that the district court “may be foreclosed from ordering relief” against it. So Section 1332(d)(2)’s jurisdictional grant “shall not apply.” Since that is the only provision that Plaintiff relies on to establish jurisdiction over her putative class action, the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear it. View "Blazine Monaco v. WV Parkways Authority" on Justia Law
JOHEL VALIENTE, ET AL V. SWIFT TRANSP. CO. OF ARIZ.
In 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) decided to preempt California’s MRB rules with respect to truck drivers subject to federal regulations. Swift Transportation (Plaintiffs) argued that the presumption against retroactive application of laws operates here to allow their lawsuit to proceed despite the FMSCA’s preemption of California’s meal and rest break (MRB) rules. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona, LLC in a class action brought by former hourly truck drivers for (“Plaintiffs”) alleging violations of California’s MRB rules and derivative state-law claims. The panel applied the retroactivity test set forth in Landgraf v. USI FilmProducts, 511 U.S. 244, 263-64, 280 (1994). Under step one of the twostep test, the panel held that because Congress clearly intended for the FMSCA to have the power to halt enforcement of state laws, and because the FMSCA intended for this particular preemption determination to apply to pending lawsuits, the FMSCA’s decision prohibits present enforcement of California’s MRB rules regardless of when the underlying conduct occurred. The panel held that it need not reach the second step of the Landgraf analysis. View "JOHEL VALIENTE, ET AL V. SWIFT TRANSP. CO. OF ARIZ." on Justia Law
Palm Beach County, et al. v. Federal Aviation Administration
Intervenor is a former commercial pilot who now flies a small Cessna jet for his own personal use. The intervenor landed his Cessna at the Lantana Airport. A Palm Beach County ordinance prohibits “pure turbo-jet aircraft” and cargo-carrying aircraft that weigh more than 12,500 pounds from using Lantana Airport, and Palm Beach County enforces the ordinance in a way that actually bans all jets, not just the “pure turbo” variety. The intervenor complained to the Federal Aviation Administration that the ordinance’s jet restriction violated a grant assurance the County had made to the FAA in exchange for federal airport improvement money. The FAA agreed with the Intervenor and ordered the County to rescind the restriction. The County and the City of Atlantis, which borders Lantana Airport, have petitioned us for review of the FAA’s final agency decision. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for review. The court explained that the FAA has exclusive authority over our national navigable airspace, which means it’s responsible for “developing plans and policy . . . necessary to ensure the safety of aircraft and the efficient use” of that space. It “may modify or revoke an assignment of airspace when required in the public interest.” As long as any change in the FAA’s position on an airport restriction isn’t based on an impermissible bias, it has the authority to make that change. The Associate Administrator’s conclusion that Lantana Airport’s jet restriction violates Grant Assurance wasn’t arbitrary and capricious but instead was supported by substantial evidence. View "Palm Beach County, et al. v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law