Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 23, 2014
  • Case #: 13-1080
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 721 F.3d 666 (D.C. Cir. 2013).
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether Amtrak is a private entity for purposes of determining whether Congress may delegate legislative authority to Amtrak, jointly with the Federal Railroad Administration, to create rules used in Surface Transportation Board adjudications.

Respondent sued Petitioners alleging that § 207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (“PRIIA”), which delegates of legislative power to Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) to jointly create rules used in subsequent adjudications by the Surface Transportation Board (“STB”), is an unconstitutional grant of legislative power to a private entity, Amtrak, which is a for-profit corporation. The district court granted summary judgment for Petitioners, finding the delegation constitutional because the government maintains ultimate control over the promulgation and enforcement of regulations Amtrak has a part in creating, and controls Amtrak itself. The D.C. Circuit reversed on appeal. It held that Amtrak’s status as a private entity violates the non-delegation doctrine. Petitioners sought a grant of certiorari, which the Supreme Court now grants.

Under Article I, Congress may not delegate its legislative authority to private entities, and the Fifth Amendment Due Process requirement prohibits delegation of power to interested private parties. Furthermore, Amtrak “is not a department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States Government.” 49 U.S.C. § 24301(a)(3). However, the Supreme Court has previously treated Amtrak as a government entity in prior jurisprudence, and non-delegation does not preclude wholesale involvement of private entities in rulemaking.

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