Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court issuing a preliminary injunction preliminarily enjoining enforcement of a state law before it took effect, holding that the district court properly entered the preliminary injunction.The law at issue was enacted by the Maine legislature in 2021 to prevent Canadian truck drivers from hauling logs within the state under the auspices of the federal H-2A visa program. Just a few days before the law was to take effect Plaintiffs jointly filed suit in federal district court against the Director of the Maine Bureau of Forestry and the Attorney General of Maine (collectively, the State). Plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging that the law was preempted under federal law. Plaintiffs then moved for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law. The district court granted the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs carried their burden of showing that the H-2A restriction imposed by the law was likely preempted by federal law; and (2) therefore, the district court properly entered the preliminary injunction. View "Maine Forest Products Council v. Cormier" on Justia Law

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The Indiana Southwestern Railway Company sought to abandon railway easements, in which the owners had reversionary interests. The Surface Transportation Board (49 U.S.C. 10903) issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use and Abandonment (NITU). Negotiations with potential railbanking sponsors failed. Eventually, the NITU expired, Railway abandoned its easements without entering into a trail use agreement, and the landowners’ fee simple interests became unencumbered by any easements.The landowners sought compensation for an alleged taking arising under the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d), claiming that the government had permanently taken their property in April 2001, when the NITU became effective. The Claims Court found that the government had taken the property but that the taking lasted only from the date the NITU went into effect until it expired. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. The landowner’s property was temporarily taken under the Trails Act. The NITU delayed the reversion of the owners’ interests. The Railway would have otherwise relinquished its rights to its right-of-way during the NITU period. The court remanded for a determination as to the compensation and interest to which the owners are entitled. View "Memmer v. United States" on Justia Law

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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

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Municipal authorities in Oklahoma fined Plaintiff BNSF Railway Company for violating its Blocked Crossing Statute—setting up a preemption challenge between the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (“ICCTA”) and the Blocked Crossing Statute. Defendants argued the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”), not the ICCTA, applied to Oklahoma’s statute and did not preempt it. The district court held that the ICCTA preempted Oklahoma’s Blocked Crossing Statute because it regulated railroad operations. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the federal district court and affirmed its decision. View "BNSF Railway v. City of Edmond, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellants, two individuals who have traveled on Amtrak in connection with their work and expect to continue doing so, sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent Amtrak from imposing an arbitration requirement on rail passengers and purchasers of rail tickets.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint because appellants have not plausibly alleged an actual injury-in-fact and therefore lack Article III standing. In this case, appellants have alleged neither ongoing nor imminent future injury. Rather, appellants assert only one cognizable interest, the interest in purchasing tickets to travel by rail, but Amtrak's new term of service has not meaningfully abridged that interest. View "Weissman v. National Railroad Passenger Corp." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court refusing to quash subpoenas seeking discovery from Rhode Island public officials and a state consultant, holding that Petitioners were entitled to a writ of advisory mandamus reversing the decision to allow the discovery sought from Rhode Island's former governor, the former speaker of Rhode Island's legislature, and former state representative.In these consolidated cases Petitioners sought to reverse the district court's decision refusing to quash subpoenas seeking discovery from Rhode Island public officials and a state consultant. Proponents of the discovery - trucking interests - asserted that the discovery was reasonably calculated to provide evidence that Rhode Island elected officials intended to discriminate against interstate commerce in charging bridge tolls. The First Circuit issued a writ of advisory mandamus reversing the decision to allow the discovery sought from certain Rhode Island public officials, holding that the district court erred in determining that the proponents' interest in obtaining evidence of the state officials' subject motives outweighed the comity considerations implicated by the subpoenas. View "American Trucking Associations, Inc. v. Raimondo" on Justia Law

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Owned by the Indiana Finance Authority, the Indiana Toll Road has been operated since 2006 by a lessee, ITR. What ITR can charge depends on state law. In 2018, ITR paid the state $1 billion in exchange for permission to raise by 35 percent the tolls on heavy trucks. The district court dismissed a suit under the Commerce Clause, reasoning that Indiana, as a market participant, was exempt from rules ordinarily applied under the Commerce Clause.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that the increase is valid even if it discriminates against interstate commerce. The tolls are neutral with respect to the origins, destinations, and ownership of the trucks. The court also reasoned that when a state participates in, rather than just regulates, the market, it may discriminate in favor of its own citizens and declined to find that tollways “are different.” The court noted the history of private ownership of roads. View "Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. v. Holcomb" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the FRA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing a national minimum requirement of two crew members for trains. In 2019, the FRA issued an order purporting to adopt a nationwide maximum one-person crew rule and to preempt "any state laws concerning that subject matter." Two Unions and three states petitioned for review of the Order under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).As a preliminary matter, the Ninth Circuit dismissed the Unions' petition because venue was not proper under 28 U.S.C. 2343. The panel explained that the Unions' principal officers were not in the Ninth Circuit. The panel concluded that it had jurisdiction over the States' petitions because they were sufficiently aggrieved to invoke jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 2344. On the merits, the panel held that the FRA's Order does not implicitly preempt state safety rules, that the FRA failed to comply with the APA's notice-and-comment provisions in issuing the Order, and that the order is arbitrary and capricious. The panel explained that the Order's basis for its action did not withstand scrutiny, and the FRA's contemporaneous explanation was lacking. In this case, the States met their burden of showing that the issuance of the Order violated the APA. Accordingly, the panel dismissed the petition for review but granted the States' petitions, vacating the Order. View "Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers v. Federal Railroad Administration" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”)’s petition seeking review of a Commonwealth Court holding that a de facto taking of an unmined coal estate, owned by Penn Pocahontas and leased to PBS Coals, Inc. (collectively “the Coal Companies”), occurred under the Eminent Domain Code, 26 Pa.C.S. sections 101-1106 (“Code”), when PennDOT’s construction of Highway 219 on an adjoining parcel destroyed options for constructing rights-of-ways to the coal estate’s surface. In reaching that conclusion, the Commonwealth Court held that the feasibility of mining the coal, as measured by the probability of obtaining a legally required permit from the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), was relevant only to damages. The Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court’s decision, agreeing with PennDOT that the legality of extracting the coal went directly to the trial court’s duty to determine whether a taking occurred. Furthermore, the Court held the Commonwealth Court erred by failing to remand the case for consideration of whether consequential damages are available to the Coal Companies. The matter was remanded to the Commonwealth Court with instructions to remand to the trial court with respect to the Coal Companies’ consequential damages claim. View "PBS Coals, et al v. PennDOT" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiffs' illegal exaction suit that sought to enjoin the expenditure of highway funds collected pursuant to Amendment 91 of the Arkansas Constitution for two highway projects, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Amendment 91 funds were legally designated for the projects.The two projects at issue were intended to improve portions of Interstate 30 and Interstate 630 in Little Rock by widening portions of the interstate highways from six lanes to eight or more lanes. The Arkansas Department of Transportation selected the projects to be funded by Amendment 91 money. Plaintiffs, Arkansas citizens and taxpayers, filed an illegal exaction lawsuit praying to enjoin the expenditure of funds for the projects, arguing that the projects were not "four-lane highway improvements," as required by Amendment 91. The circuit court found that the projects were covered by Amendment 91. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the repeated reference to "four-lane highways" and the lack of a specific reference to six-lane interstate highways means the Amendment 91 funds cannot be used for six-lane interstate highways; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing the illegal exaction suit. View "Buonauito v. Gibson" on Justia Law