Justia Transportation Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Aviation
Jackson Muni Airport v. Harkins
The Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport is a major airport located in Jackson, Mississippi. Since 1960, the airport has been operated by the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, whose five commissioners are selected by the city government. In 2016, the Mississippi legislature passed, and the governor signed into law SB 2162, which abolishes the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority and replaces it with a regional authority composed of nine commissioners, only two of whom are selected by Jackson city government. A Jackson citizen filed a suit seeking to enjoin the law. The mayor, the city council, the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, its board of commissioners, and the commissioners in their individual capacities intervened in that lawsuit. The intervenors contend that SB 2162 violates the Equal Protection rights of the citizens of Jackson by eliminating the locally controlled Jackson Municipal Airport Authority for racially discriminatory reasons. The intervenors served subpoenas on eight nonparty state legislators who participated in SB 2162’s drafting and passage. The Legislators refused to comply with Request #3 in the subpoena, which sought documents and communications related to SB 2162, asserting that any responsive discovery would either be irrelevant or protected by legislative privilege. The magistrate judge, and later the district court, rejected this position. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the Legislators to produce a privilege log. But the district court erred in broadly holding that legislative privilege was automatically waived for any documents that have been shared with third parties. View "Jackson Muni Airport v. Harkins" on Justia Law
Air Excursions LLC v. Janet Yellen
Air Excursions, LLC provides air transportation services in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. It claims that the United States Department of Treasury (Treasury) erroneously disbursed pandemic relief funds to a competitor airline and challenges that disbursement as unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit vacated the district court’s order dismissing the complaint on the merits and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The court reasoned that the competitor standing doctrine supplies the link between increased competition and tangible injury but does not, by itself, supply the link between the challenged conduct and increased competition. The latter must be apparent from the nature of the challenged action itself—as in U.S. Telecom Association—or from the well-pleaded allegations of Plaintiff’s complaint. The court concluded that the complaint failed to establish that Air Excursions has suffered a competitive injury satisfying Article III’s injury in fact requirement. View "Air Excursions LLC v. Janet Yellen" on Justia Law
CITY OF LOS ANGELES V. FAA, ET AL
The passenger terminal at the Bob Hope “Hollywood Burbank” Airport is more than fifty years old and violates safety standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). So the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, which owns and operates the Airport, reached an agreement with the City of Burbank to build a new terminal. In 2016, Burbank voters approved that agreement as required by local law. But before FAA could sign off on the project, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. Sections 4321 et seq., required the agency to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In May 2021, the FAA issued a Final EIS (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) that let the Authority start constructing the replacement terminal, and shortly after, the City of Los Angeles petitioned for review. The Ninth Circuit granted the petition in part and remanded for FAA to redo the deficient parts of its analysis. The panel held that contrary to Los Angeles’s argument—that the FAA improperly eliminated certain alternatives because they were not approved pursuant to Measure B—the FAA properly eliminated the new airport, remote landside facility, and southeast terminal alternatives based on rational considerations that were independent of Measure B. In addition, the panel held that even if the Measure B criteria foreclosed consideration of alternatives other than the Project, that would not be enough to establish an irreversible commitment to the Project. The panel considered the rest of Los Angeles’s objections to the FAA’s impact analysis and found them meritless. View "CITY OF LOS ANGELES V. FAA, ET AL" on Justia Law
Professional Airline Flight Control Association v. Spirit Airlines, Inc.
The Professional Airline Flight Control Association complained that Spirit is attempting to change its agreement. Spirit responded that its unilateral decision to open a second operations control center is permitted by the parties’ agreement. The district court agreed with Spirit that this dispute is minor and dismissed the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Section 151 et seq., divides labor disputes into two categories: disputes over the interpretation of an existing agreement are “minor” and resolved exclusively through binding arbitration, and disputes over proposed changes to an agreement or over a new agreement are “major” and addressed through bargaining and mediation. During a major dispute, district courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to enjoin violations of the status quo. But district courts ordinarily lack jurisdiction over minor disputes. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal. View "Professional Airline Flight Control Association v. Spirit Airlines, Inc." 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
Day v. SkyWest Airlines
Kelly Day appealed the district court’s dismissal of the diversity action she filed against SkyWest Airlines for personal injuries she allegedly sustained when a SkyWest flight attendant carelessly struck her with a beverage cart. The district court granted SkyWest’s motion to dismiss the action as preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act (“ADA”), which preempted state laws “related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier.” The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with sister circuits that personal-injury claims arising out of an airline employee’s failure to exercise due care were not “related to” a deregulated price, route, or service. Therefore, the Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Day’s action and remanded for further proceedings. View "Day v. SkyWest Airlines" on Justia Law
Frey v. Town of Jackson, WY, et al.
As Plaintiff William Frey proceeded through the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) checkpoint at Jackson Hole Airport in Teton County, Wyoming, the body scanner alerted TSA screeners to a potentially suspicious area on Plaintiff’s person. When the security screeners informed Plaintiff that they would have to conduct a pat down, Plaintiff became agitated and repeatedly refused to cooperate. So the security screeners summoned a police officer, Defendant Nathan Karnes, who arrested Plaintiff. After being transported to the Teton County Jail for booking, Plaintiff continued his noncooperation, refusing to participate in the booking process and demanding that jail officials allow him to have an attorney present. Jail officials detained Plaintiff for about three hours before releasing him. Plaintiff sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, alleging many violations of his rights. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s federal claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, denied leave to file a second amended complaint, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims, awarded attorney’s fees to the Municipal Defendants, and sanctioned Plaintiff’s attorneys. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that some of his claims should have survived dismissal, that the district court should have permitted him to add some of his new proposed claims in a second amended complaint, and that the district court should not have awarded any attorney’s fees. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Frey v. Town of Jackson, WY, et al." on Justia Law
Cavalieri v. Avior Airlines C.A.
Plaintiffs purchased tickets for Defendant’s commercial flights from Miami to Venezuela. Plaintiffs allege that their ticket prices reflected the “fully-paid contract” and that Defendant failed to sufficiently disclose any other fees required for passage. When checking in for their flights at the airport, however, Defendant informed Plaintiffs that they had to pay an additional $80 “Exit Fee” before being allowed to board their flights. Plaintiffs filed a breach of contract putative class action.The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that the Airline Deregulation Act preempted Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim because it related to the price of the airline ticket and the Act’s preemption provision identifies actions relating to price as preempted. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, first holding that the Plaintiffs plausibly alleged facts that would establish diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim seeks merely to enforce the parties’ private agreements regarding the cost of passage and does not invoke state laws or regulations to alter the agreed-upon price. The statute, 49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(1), provides: “[A] State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier..” The suit falls within the category of cases protected from preemption by Supreme Court precedent. View "Cavalieri v. Avior Airlines C.A." on Justia Law
Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration
Petitioner sought review of the TSA's Mask Directives, issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that the TSA has no authority to issue the directives. Petitioner argued that TSA's authority under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act does not empower TSA to require face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.The DC Circuit found no merit in petitioner's claim and denied the petition for review. The court concluded that the COVID-19 global pandemic poses one of the greatest threats to the operational viability of the transportation system and the lives of those on it seen in decades. TSA, which is tasked with maintaining transportation safety and security, plainly has the authority to address such threats under both sections 114(f) and (g) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The court stated that the Mask Directives are reasonable and permissible regulations adopted by TSA to promote safety and security in the transportation system against threats posed by COVID-19. The Mask Directives are not ultra vires, and the court deferred to the agency's interpretation of the Act. View "Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law
People v. Superior Court (Cal Cartage Transportation Express, LLC)
The Court of Appeal held that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA) does not preempt application of California's ABC test, originally set forth in Dynamex Operations W. v. Superior Court (2018) 4 Cal.5th 903, and eventually codified by Assembly Bill 2257 (AB 2257), to determine whether a federally licensed interstate motor carrier has correctly classified its truck drivers as independent contractors.The court held that defendants have not demonstrated, as they must under People ex rel. Harris v. Pac Anchor Transportation, Inc. (2014) 59 Cal.4th 772, 785-87, that application of the ABC test prohibits motor carriers from using independent contractors or otherwise directly affects motor carriers' prices, routes, or services. Furthermore, nothing in Pac Anchor nor the FAAAA's legislative history suggests Congress intended to preempt a worker-classification test applicable to all employers in the state. The court granted a peremptory writ of mandate directing respondent court to vacate its order granting in part defendants' motion in limine, and enter a new order denying that motion because the statutory amendments implemented by AB 2257 are not preempted by the FAAAA. View "People v. Superior Court (Cal Cartage Transportation Express, LLC)" on Justia Law