Justia Civil Rights 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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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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Petitioner brought a third challenge to the TSA's airport scanner equipment using advanced imaging technology (AIT). Petitioner challenged the TSA's latest policies and orders that require certain airline passengers to pass through AIT scanners, eliminating for them the option of being screened by a physical pat-down.The Eleventh Circuit held that it was without jurisdiction to entertain petitioner's claims, because petitioner lacked the necessary standing to bring the petition. The court held that petitioner failed to establish that he suffered an injury in fact, that is, the invasion of a judicially cognizable interest that is concrete and particularized and actual and imminent. In this case, petitioner has never said that he was subjected to the mandatory TSA policy, before his petition or since then, even though he has made numerous filings since he lodged his petition for review containing substantial information about his travel patterns and his interactions with TSA. View "Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law

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Private persons cannot sue in federal district court to enforce the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. 41705. Although the Fifth Circuit determined that private persons could sue in federal district court to enforce the ACAA in Shinault v. American Airlines, Inc., 936 F.2d 796, 800 (5th Cir. 1991), the Supreme Court's intervening decision in Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 286–91 (2001), mandated a different result. In light of Sandoval, the court joined the Second, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits and held that the ACAA was enforceable only by the agency charged with administering it because no private right of action exists to enforce the ACAA in district court. View "Stokes v. Southwest Airlines" on Justia Law

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The Federation filed a class action against United, alleging that the airline’s policy of using automatic kiosks inaccessible to blind travelers violates California’s antidiscrimination laws. The district court dismissed the suit on the grounds that the Federation’s claims were expressly preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 41713, and impliedly field preempted under the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. 41705, and its implementing regulations, issued by the DOT. Under its interpretation of section 41713(b)(1) of the ADA, the court concluded that the Federation’s claims do not relate to a “service” provided by United. Moreover, the court's conclusion that United's kiosks fall outside the statutory definition of “services” is consistent with the ADA’s deregulatory purpose. Therefore, the Federation’s claims are not expressly preempted under the ADA. Absent any specific indication that Congress sought to preserve all state-law claims not expressly preempted under the ADA, the court adopted the Geier v. Am. Honda Motor Co. approach and applied ordinary implied field preemption principles to the Federation’s claims. Applying the court's precedent concerning field preemption, the court concluded that the DOT ACAA regulations covering matters other than the use of airline ticketing kiosks are not pertinent to the court's field preemption inquiry; the new regulation is pervasive and intended to occupy the field of kiosk accessibility; and DOT acted within its delegated authority in promulgating the new regulation. Therefore, the Federation’s state-law claims are impliedly field preempted under the ACAA. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Nat'l Fed. of the Blind v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in Adams v. United States challenged the nonretroactivity and protection-for-compliance provisions of the Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act of 2007 (FTEPA), Pub. L. No. 110-135, 121 Stat. 1450, as well as the FAA's implementation of these provisions. These provisions repealed the "Age 60 Rule" and extended the maximum age for piloting commercial flights by five years. Plaintiffs in Emory v. United Air Lines, Inc., supplemented their constitutional objections with state and federal claims against their employer, United, and their union, ALPA, for advancing allegedly discriminatory interpretations of the nonretroactivity provision they knew to be incorrect. The court concluded that the FTEPA passed constitutional muster and should be interpreted as the Emory defendants have done. Therefore, the court affirmed the district courts' judgments as to all claims not dismissed as moot. View "Emory v. United Airlines, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who has difficulty walking because of certain health problems, alleged that United did not provide her with adequate assistance moving through the airport on two airplane trips and that she suffered physical and emotional injuries as a result. The court held that the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. 40101 et seq., and its implementing regulations preempted state and territorial standards of care with respect to the circumstances which airlines must provide assistance to passengers with disabilities in moving through the airport. The ACAA did not, however, preempt any state remedies that could be available when airlines violated those standards. The court also held that the ACAA and its implementing regulations did not preempt state-law personal injury claims involving how airline agents interact with passengers with disabilities who requested assistance in moving through the airport. Finally, the court held that a terminal used for transportation by aircraft was excluded from definition as a Title III-covered place of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12181 et seq. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "Gilstrap v. United Air Lines, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the Richmond International Airport and TSA agents, alleging violations of his constitutional rights when he was seized and arrested for displaying the text of the Fourth Amendment on his chest. The district court denied the TSA agents' motion to dismiss the First Amendment claim and the TSA agents appealed. Because the court found that the facts as alleged by plaintiff plausibly set forth a claim that the TSA agents violated his clearly established First Amendment rights, the court affirmed the district court's decision. View "Tobey v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed from the district court's dismissal of their complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiffs initiated this proceeding against defendants, challenging the use of advanced imaging technology (AIT) scanners and invasive pat-downs at airport screening checkpoints in the United States. On appeal, plaintiffs maintained that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the TSA's standard operating procedures for checkpoint screenings did not constitute an "order" under 49 U.S.C. 46110. Alternatively, plaintiffs argued, that section 46110's conferral of exclusive jurisdiction in a court of appeals deprived them of due process and contravened the separation of powers rooted in the Constitution. The court held that it had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291; on the merits, the district court did not err in ruling that the Checkpoint Screen SOP constituted an order of the TSA Administrator under section 46110; and plaintiffs' remaining contentions lacked merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Blitz v. Napolitano" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation employed Respondent William Hoeper as a pilot. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued Respondent a firearm under the federal statute that authorizes the TSA to deputize pilots as law enforcement officers to defend the aircraft should the need arise. After discontinuing its use of the type of aircraft Respondent had piloted for many years, Air Wisconsin required Respondent to undertake training and pass a proficiency test for a new aircraft. Respondent failed three proficiency tests, knowing that if he failed a fourth test, he would be fired. During the last test, Respondent became angry with the test administrators because he believed they were deliberately sabotaging his testing. Test administrators reported Respondent's angry outbursts during testing to the TSA that Respondent was "a disgruntled employee (an FFDO [Federal Flight Deck Officer] who may be armed)" and was "concerned about the whereabouts of [Respondents] firearm." Respondent brought suit against Air Wisconsin in Colorado for defamation under Virginia law. Air Wisconsin argued it was immune from defamation suits as this under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), and unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment. The jury found clear and convincing evidence that statements made by the airline test administrator were defamatory. Air Wisconsin appealed and the court of appeals affirmed. The court of appeals determined that the question of whether the judge or jury decided immunity under the ATSA was a procedural issue determined by Colorado law, and concluded that the trial court properly allowed the jury to decide the immunity question. Air Wisconsin appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals, adding that the airline was not immune from suit or defamation under the ATSA. Furthermore, the Court held that the record supported the jury's finding of clear and convincing evidence of actual malice.