Thursday, October 6, 2011

Los Angeles Port Decides Not To Appeal Ninth Circuit Truck Program Ruling

The governing board of the Port of Los Angeles has decided not to appeal the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the port's contentious employee-only mandate component of its truck program.

Meeting in closed session on Thursday, the five-member port commission decided to forgo a possible appeal of the decision to either the Ninth Circuit or the United States Supreme Court. The port could have asked the Ninth Circuit to review the three-member appellate panel's ruling "en banc," meaning a much larger 11-member panel of Ninth Circuit judges would have reassessed the case. The port also had a 90-day window to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court.

Last Monday, the three-member Ninth Circuit panel ruled that the Port of Los Angeles can not require thousands of port-servicing independent truckers to become trucking firm employees, dealing a major victory to the American Trucking Associations who had brought the original lawsuit and a major setback to International Brotherhood of Teamsters efforts to unionize the drayage drivers.

In a unanimous ruling, the appellate panel dismissed the port's argument that the port was a "market participant" in the drayage industry. Without the "market participant" claim, the court found that the port's employee-only mandate is not exempt from federal interstate commerce laws and permanently enjoined the mandate.

The appellate panel also split 2-1 in favor of the port on four other minor issues opposed by the ATA, including an off-street parking provision, financial capability requirement, maintenance provision, and placard requirement.

The case now heads back to US District Court Judge Christina Snyder, with instructions from the appellate panel to ignore the "market participation" argument that had formed the basis of her ruling last year that the port could move forward with the employee-only mandate. It is expected that Judge Snyder, as she has done in the past regarding Ninth Circuit remands, will follow the appellate court's guidelines and also permanently bar the employee-mandate.

In a statement, Los Angeles port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz praised the Ninth Circuit for those provisions where the court found in favor of the port, saying that the truck program "will assure safe, clean and more secure drayage for the long term."
"We have no plans to seek further review, " she said.

The ATA said that it has also decided not to seek an en banc review at the Ninth Circuit regarding the provision of the truck plan on which the appellate court ruled in favor of the port. The ATA legal staff is reviewing the case to determine if the trade association will appeal to the US Supreme Court.