Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aviation
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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

Posted in: Aviation
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a putative class action seeking refunds of baggage fees based on preemption by the Airline Deregulation Act, 49 U.S.C. 1301 et seq. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging various breach of contract claims, seeking a refund of a $15 baggage claim fee, because her bag did not arrive on time and was consequently delivered to her the next day. American Airlines v. Wolens is controlling as to plaintiff's breach of contract claim. In this case, because plaintiff's claim was for breach of contract of a voluntarily assumed contractual undertaking, and she pleaded breach of contract, the claim was not preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act as construed by Wolens. View "Hickcox-Huffman v. US Airways" on Justia Law

Posted in: Aviation, Contracts
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Plaintiffs filed a class action against defendants alleging antitrust violations in connection with three categories of defendants' charged rates: unfiled fares, fuel surcharges, and special "discount" fares. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants colluded to fix the prices of certain passenger tickets and fuel surcharges on flights in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's holding that the filed rate doctrine does not preclude plaintiffs' suit. The court explained that the filed rate doctrine is a judicially created rule that prohibits individuals from asserting civil antitrust challenges to an entity’s agency-approved rates. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of fact as to whether the DOT has effectively abdicated the exercise of its authority to regulate unfiled fares. Therefore, the district court did not not err in denying summary judgment to defendants as to those fares based on the filed rate doctrine. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by finding that genuine issues of material fact regarding the DOT's exercise of regulatory authority over fuel surcharges precluded entry of summary judgment for defendants. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in declining to apply the doctrine to discount fares given the questions of fact regarding whether the discount fares constitute the same product as the fares actually filed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's partial denial of defendants' motions for summary judgment. View "Wortman v. All Nippon Airways" on Justia Law

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Petitioner seeks review of the NTSB's decision affirming the FAA's order revoking his aircraft registration certificate. After petitioner admitted to the FAA that he used his aircraft to transport marijuana, the FAA revoked his registration certificate because “the aircraft was used to carry out, or facilitate, an activity that is punishable” as a drug-related felony. 49 U.S.C. 44106(b)(1)(A). Separate, state court criminal proceedings against defendant were dismissed after the trial court suppressed the drug evidence found on his plane. The court concluded that, under the statute’s plain language, the proper inquiry is whether the “activity” is “punishable,” not whether the certificate holder is at risk of being punished. In this case, because the activity—transporting marijuana—was punishable as a felony, the court concluded that defendant's certificate was properly revoked even though he may no longer be subject to punishment under state law. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Connors v. NTSB" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the FAA's decision that no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is necessary to commence operating commercial passenger service at Paine Field in Snohomish County. The court held that the scope of the FAA's demand-based projections were not arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the FAA determined that there were no connected actions for this project and petitioners have failed to provide anything more than mere speculation that the FAA’s actions now will lead to more aircraft activity at Paine Field in the future than covered in the Environmental Assessment (EA). Therefore, it was not arbitrary for the FAA to have included no connected actions in the final EA. The court also concluded that the FAA’s Finding of No Significant Impact was not predetermined by the creation of an optimistic schedule for completing the environmental review or statements favoring commercial service at Paine Field. Here, the FAA performed its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370h, obligations in good faith and did not prematurely commit resources to opening the terminal. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "City of Mukilteo v. US DOT" on Justia Law