Tuesday, February 22, 2011

California AG and OOIDA Trucking Group Ask to Join LA Port Clean Truck Litigation

The California Attorney General filed an amicus brief February 18 with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to join in support of the Port of Los Angeles in litigation over portions of the port's Clean Truck Program. At the same time, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), a trade group representing independent truck drivers nationwide, also filed an amicus brief with the court to join the case in support of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) trade group which has alleged that the port truck program violates federal interstate commerce laws.

If approved as amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," parties to the suit, the California Attorney General Kamala Harris and OOIDA would not be allowed to argue their respective positions as a direct party to the case, but can volunteer information on points of law under discussion or other aspects of the case to assist the court in reaching a decision.

The ATA, which represents more than 37,000 trucking firms nationwide, first filed suit in federal District Court against the port in July 2008 arguing that portions of the port's Clean Truck Program violates the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution and federal laws governing interstate commerce.

A lower court ruled in favor of the port on Sept. 15, 2010, finding that while the portions of the port truck program under argument did violate federal law, the port was exempt from the federal regulations.

District Court Judge Christina Snyder's ruling hinged on the concept of market participation. Judge Snyder found that the port, through its truck program, was operating as a participant in the local port drayage market and not simply as a regulatory agency. As a market participant, Judge Snyder said, the port is exempt from the cited federal regulations under federal preemption guidelines.

In its original appeals filing, the ATA reiterated its original arguments from the lower court suit that the port is not a market participant and asked the appellate panel to overturn Judge Snyder's ruling.

Attorney General Harris, in her filing, urges the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the district court's decision and stresses that a public agency can make a business decision to go "green" when spending its own funds to contract for services.
OOIDA, in their filing to join the case, slammed Judge Snyder's ruling in favor of the port and urged the appellate panel to rule in favor of the ATA.

The Ninth Circuit has received all written arguments and rebuttals in the case and is currently preparing to set a date for oral arguments. Following the oral arguments, the court is expected to rule on the case sometime before this summer.