Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries
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 7, LLC v. County of Ventura
Air 7, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, and its owner, the Peter J. Koral Trust, owned a Gulfstream G-550 jet aircraft. Air 7’s headquarters were located at the Camarillo Airport in Ventura County. The owner was a resident of California. The County of Ventura (the “County”) imposed a tax on the aircraft that was permanently removed from California before the tax lien date of January 1 for the tax year 2017. Air 7 sued the County for a refund of the taxes, statutory interest, and penalties the County had imposed. The trial court found the aircraft was not permanently removed from Ventura County on the tax lien date because it had not established situs elsewhere. The trial court entered judgment for the County. The Second Appellate District reversed. The court explained that the aircraft was removed from California with the intent that removal be permanent, and the aircraft never returned to California during the 2017 tax year. Accordingly, the court concluded the aircraft was not “situated” or “habitually situated” in California. The tax imposed on the aircraft violates California law irrespective of whether the aircraft was situated and taxed in another state. View "Air 7, LLC v. County of Ventura" on Justia Law
Erin Osmon v. US
Plaintiff sued the federal government under the FTCA, alleging one count of battery. A magistrate judge recommended dismissing Plaintiff’s suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in a detailed memorandum devoted solely to whether the FTCA waives sovereign immunity for the type of claim Plaintiff brought. The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation. The district court concluded it need not review the recommendation de novo because Plaintiff failed to object with sufficient specificity and, in any event, “the Magistrate Judge’s proposed conclusions of law are correct and are consistent with current case law. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that the district court erred in concluding Plaintiff did not adequately preserve her claim for review. The court explained that a party wishing to avail itself of its right to de novo review must be “sufficiently specific to focus the district court’s attention on the factual and legal issues that are truly in dispute.” The court concluded that Plaintiff cleared that bar. Further, the court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that the FTCA permits people who allege they were assaulted by TSA screeners to sue the federal government. View "Erin Osmon v. US" 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
Aspen American Insurance Company v. Landstar Ranger, Inc.
Tessco Technologies Inc. hired Landstar Ranger, Inc. as a transportation broker to secure a motor carrier to transport an expensive load of Tessco’s cargo to a purchaser across state lines. But Landstar mistakenly turned the shipment over to a thief posing as a Landstar-registered carrier, who ran off with Tessco’s shipment. Tessco’s insurer, Aspen American Insurance Company, sued Landstar, claiming Landstar was negligent under Florida law in its selection of the carrier. The district court dismissed Aspen’s negligence claims against Landstar, concluding those claims were expressly preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that just as the phrase “with respect to the transportation of property” “massively limits” the preemption provision, the court reads the phrase “with respect to motor vehicles” to impose a meaningful limit on the exception to the preemption provision. Second, the court found that the phrase “with respect to motor vehicles” has an operative effect only by requiring a direct connection between the state law and motor vehicles. The court reasoned that the specifics of Aspen’s complaint make us even more confident that Aspen’s claims are not “with respect to motor vehicles” within the meaning of the safety exception. Aspen’s complaint says nothing at all about motor vehicles. And Aspen’s negligence and gross negligence counts challenge only Landstar’s “selection of the motor carrier.” The complaint does not purport to enforce any standard or regulation on the ownership, maintenance, or operation of “a vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used on a highway in transportation.” View "Aspen American Insurance Company v. Landstar Ranger, Inc." 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
Yates v. City of Chicago
From 1993-2017, Chicago treated O’Hare Airport aviation security officers as law-enforcement personnel, able to make arrests while employed and carry concealed firearms after retirement. The officers were unarmed and reported to the Commissioner of Aviation rather than the Chief of Police. In 2017 Chicago concluded that they are not law enforcement personnel. The Illinois Labor Relations Board sustained the decision. Neither the union nor any of its members contested that decision in state court. Three aviation security officers filed a federal suit, contending that the reclassification violated the Due Process Clause.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. There is no “fundamental right” to be a law enforcement officer. Although the Chicago Code says that the officers “shall be sworn in as special policemen,” the process due for any violation of state or local law or of a collective-bargaining agreement is the opportunity to sue in state court. The union bypassed that opportunity in 2018. A suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 is not a way to supersede that decision. The collective-bargaining agreement does not promise that aviation security officers will remain law enforcement officials and the correct entity to seek review was the union, not individual members. The court upheld a $40,0000 award of costs. View "Yates v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law
Flt Training Intl v. FAA
This case concerns rules and regulations issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governing two types of pilot credentials: airline transport pilot (ATP) certificates, which enable pilots to fly for airlines, and type ratings, which authorize pilots to command complex, “type-rated” aircraft. Flight Training International, Inc. (FTI), a provider of flight training courses, wants to offer a course that uses type-rated aircraft but culminates in the issuance of an ATP certificate without a type rating. A rule (Rule) issued by the FAA in 2020 prohibits it from doing that, so FTI petitioned us to set aside the rule. FTI argued that the rule effectively amends portions of 14 C.F.R. pt. 61, and, therefore, should have been promulgated only after notice and comment in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Fifth Circuit agreed and granted the petition. The court explained that the Must-Issue Rule is a legislative rule, but it was not promulgated after notice and comment as required by the APA. Because the Rule was issued “without observance of procedure required by law,” FTI’s petition must be granted, and the Rule set aside. In light of this disposition, the court did not reach FTI’s alternative argument that the Rule is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” View "Flt Training Intl v. FAA" on Justia Law