Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit denied Regency Air's petition for review challenging the FAA's decision affirming an ALJ's finding that Regency Air violated regulations requiring air carriers to test each employee for drug and alcohol misuse if performing a safety-sensitive function like plane maintenance.The panel concluded that Regency Air had adequate notice of the dispositive allegations against it, and thus it should have enrolled the first employee in its testing program but failed to do so. The panel also concluded that 14 C.F.R 120.35 and 120.39 are not unconstitutional as applied to the second employee where the employee's concurrent employment, while not addressed in the regulations, unambiguously falls within the regulations' plain text. The panel explained that the FAA chose to promulgate a general rule: if an employee works on an air carrier's planes, the air carrier must enroll the employee in its testing program. The FAA also identified only one narrow exception to this rule, inapplicable here. The panel further concluded that 49 C.F.R. 40.25 is not unconstitutionally vague as to whether Regency Air had to request the second employee's past testing records as an employee. The panel stated that, when an employer hires and becomes obligated to test an employee, it must request past testing records despite the employee's past work on the employer's planes in the scope of other employment. Finally, the panel concluded that the FAA acted within its discretion and established policy in seeking and imposing sanctions against Regency Air. View "Regency Air, LLC v. Dickson" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order preliminarily enjoining enforcement, against any motor carrier doing business in California, of California's Assembly Bill 5, which codified the judge-made "ABC test" for classifying workers as either employees or independent contractors.After determining that CTA has standing to bring suit, the panel held that application of AB-5 to motor carriers is not preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAA), because AB-5 is a generally applicable labor law that affects a motor carrier's relationship with its workforce and does not bind, compel, or otherwise freeze into place the prices, routes, or services of motor carriers. In this case, because CTA is unlikely to succeed on the merits, the district court erred by enjoining the state from enforcing AB5 against motor carriers operating in California. The panel explained that, by failing to follow precedent regarding labor laws of general applicability, the district court committed a legal error to which the panel cannot defer, even at the preliminary-injunction stage. View "California Trucking Ass'n v. Bonta" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff suffered serious injuries when he was struck by a semi-tractor trailer, he filed suit against C.H. Robinson, the freight broker that arranged for the trailer to transport goods for Costco. Plaintiff alleged that C.H. Robinson negligently selected an unsafe motor carrier.The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiff's claim is "related to" C.H. Robinson's services, but held that the district court erred in determining that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994's (FAAAA) safety exception does not apply. The panel explained that, in enacting that exception, Congress intended to preserve the States’ broad power over safety, a power that includes the ability to regulate conduct not only through legislative and administrative enactments, but also though common-law damages awards. The panel also held that plaintiff's claim has the requisite "connection with" motor vehicles because it arises out of a motor vehicle accident. Therefore, the negligence claims against brokers, to the extent that they arise out of motor vehicle accidents, have the requisite "connection with" motor vehicles, and thus the safety exception applies to plaintiff's claims against C.H. Robinson. The panel reversed and remanded. View "Miller v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc." on Justia Law

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The FAA filed an enforcement action against Pacific before an ALJ, which was then appealed to the Administrator. The ALJ and Administrator held that they had the power to adjudicate the action because the FAA initially sent Pacific two separate notices alleging that Pacific was liable for civil penalties for different violations, with each notice seeking less than $50,000.Because the FAA ultimately pursued those penalties through a single complaint seeking more than $50,000, the Ninth Circuit held that the only tribunal with jurisdiction to adjudicate the complaint was a federal district court under 49 U.S.C. 46301(d)(4). The panel explained that its conclusion is not altered by the fact that the ALJ and Administrator ultimately imposed a total penalty of less than $50,000, because a higher amount was in controversy even though not ultimately awarded. Accordingly, the court vacated the Administrator's decision and remanded with instructions to dismiss. View "Sky-Med, Inc. v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that the FAA wrongfully terminated plaintiff. Plaintiff filed her action in the district court within the 30-day statutory limitations period, but she mistakenly named only the FAA and her former supervisor as defendants. Because plaintiff's action alleged claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she should have named the head of the executive agency to which the FAA belonged, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. After the statute of limitations had expired, the FAA moved to dismiss and Secretary Chao then filed her own motion to dismiss.The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to relation back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2). The panel held that the district court adopted an overly technical interpretation of the term "process" as used in Rule 15(c)(2). Rather, the panel held that the notice-giving function of "process" under Rule 15(c)(2) was accomplished whether or not the summons accompanying the complaint was signed by the clerk of court. Furthermore, the requirements for relation back were met here where both the United States Attorney and the Attorney General were sufficiently notified of the action within Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)'s 90-day period. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Silbaugh v. Chao" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act of 1974, seeking FAA records related to the Biographical Assessment, a screening tool introduced by the FAA in 2014 as part of the air traffic controller hiring process.The panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FAA based on Exemption 2 of FOIA and Exemption (k)(6) of the Privacy Act, which allowed the FAA to withhold from plaintiff the minimum passing score and plaintiff's own score on the Biographical Assessment. Where FAA employees used personal email addresses to receive information relating to the FAA's change in selecting air traffic controllers, the panel held that plaintiff has carried his burden of showing that the FAA employees' privacy interest in their personal email addresses was outweighed by the robust interest of citizens' right to know what their government was up to in making the changes it did. The court also held that there was no genuine issue of material fact that Exemption 6 does not apply to the personal email addresses of the recipients of the Barrier Analysis document containing FAA information relating to the selection of air traffic controllers. The panel reasoned that the FAA could satisfy its obligation under FOIA by identifying the email recipients by name, instead of revealing the recipients' personal email addresses. In regard to 202 emails withheld by the FAA as agency records, the panel vacated the district court's order and remanded to the district court to apply the second prong of the test set forth in Tax Analysts v. U.S. Dep't of Justice. View "Rojas v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging both their inclusion on the No Fly List and the sufficiency of the procedures available for contesting their inclusion on the list. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government and held that the district court properly rejected plaintiffs' as-applied vagueness challenges. The panel held that the No Fly List criteria are not impermissibly vague merely because they require a prediction of future criminal conduct or because they do not delineate what factors are relevant to that determination. Rather, the criteria are reasonably clear in their application to the specific conduct alleged in this case, which includes, for one or more plaintiffs, associating with and financing terrorists, training with militant groups overseas, and advocating terrorist violence.The panel weighed the Mathews v. Eldridge factors and held that the procedures provided to the plaintiffs were constitutionally sufficient and any error was nonprejudicial. Finally, the panel held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' substantive due process claims for lack of jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C. 46110(a), which places review of TSA orders in the courts of appeals rather than the district court. View "Kashem v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting motions to remand to state court. AHI contended that it properly removed this case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). Plaintiffs had filed suit in state court against the helicopter owners, the Hecker Defendants, and the manufacturer, AHI, after John Udall died in a helicopter crash while touring the Grand Canyon.The panel held that the district court committed no error in finding that AHI was not "acting under" a federal officer by virtue of becoming an FAA-certified Designation holder with authority to issue Supplemental Certificates. In this case, AHI inspected and certified its aircraft pursuant to FAA regulations and federal law and could not make any structural or design changes without the consent of the FAA. The panel joined the Seventh Circuit in concluding that an aircraft manufacturer does not act under a federal officer when it exercises designated authority to certify compliance with governing federal regulations. View "Riggs v. Airbus Helicopters, Inc." on Justia Law

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The anti-discrimination prohibition in the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) is not enforceable through an implied private cause of action. The ACCA prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of a physical or mental impairment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim against Southwest that alleged a violation of the ACCA. The panel joined the Second, Fifth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits in concluding that, in light of the ACAA's statutory structure, Congress did not intend to create a private cause of action under the ACAA. Therefore, plaintiff's claim was properly dismissed. View "Segalman v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the FAA's finding that a new runway project at Hillsboro Airport would have no significant impact on the environment. The Ninth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that, in adopting the supplemental environmental assessment, issuing the finding of no significant impact, and concluding that the project at the Hillsboro Airport complied with the requirements of the Airport and Airway Improvement Act, the FAA did not act in a manner that was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. View "Barnes v. FAA" on Justia Law