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Association of American Railroads v. Attorney General Beshear

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

March 26, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ANDY BESHEAR, in his Official Capacity as the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, et al., Defendants.




         Kentuckians are upset. [R. 22-1 at 3.] They believe that delays caused by trains idling in railroad crossings are putting their lives at risk. Id. So, local law enforcement officials have been tasked with cracking down on the amount of time trains remain in a railroad crossing by enforcing KRS 277.200 and 525.140. Id. at 2-3. The only subject of those enforcement efforts-Norfolk Southern-has challenged the constitutionality of its conviction during the state court proceedings. Id. at 2.

         Now, in the wake of those convictions, the largest railroad advocacy group, the Association of American Railroads, has turned to this Court to enjoin further prosecutions for rail crossing violations. [R. 1.] As grounds, AAR claims that the extensive regulation found in the Federal Railroad Safety Act and the I.C.C. Termination Act preempts the Kentucky statutes. Id. In response, the Defendants argue that: AAR lacks the ability to sue; this Court should abstain from hearing the case; the case has already been decided; the Defendants are immune from suit; and the necessary parties have not been named. [R. 22-1.] They are wrong on all counts and AAR will get its day in court.



         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a defendant may assert lack of subject-matter jurisdiction as a defense. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is different than a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) because it challenges the Court's power to hear the case before it. When jurisdiction is challenged under this rule, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that jurisdiction exists. RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996). In answering this question, the Court is “empowered to resolve factual disputes” and need not presume that either parties' factual allegations are true. Id.

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint. In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “construe[s] the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept[s] its allegations as true, and draw[s] all inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” DirecTV, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The Court, however, “need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Id. (quoting Gregory v. Shelby County, 220 F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000)). The Supreme Court explained that in order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). See also Courier v. Alcoa Wheel & Forged Products, 577 F.3d 625, 629 (6th Cir. 2009).


         The Defendants claim AAR has no standing to sue for three reasons: (1) neither the FRSA or the ICCTA provides a private right of action; (2) AAR does not have standing; and (3) the case is not ripe. Each of these allegations is incorrect. The Court explains each in turn.


         AAR does not need a private right of action because it is not suing under the FRSA or the ICCTA. Instead, it is suing to enforce the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. And “it is beyond dispute that federal courts have jurisdiction over suits to enjoin state officials from interfering with federal rights” unless that statute expressly removes jurisdiction. Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85, 96 n. 14 (1983); see also Verizon Maryland, Inc. v. Public Service Commission of Maryland, 535 U.S. 635 (2002) (holding that a private right of action is unnecessary where the plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief on the bases of the Supremacy Clause). It is beyond dispute that neither act removes jurisdiction[1]. CSX Transp., Inc. v. City of Plymouth (Plymouth I), 86 F.3d 626 (6th Cir. 1996); CSX Transp., Inc. v. City of Plymouth (Plymouth II), 283 F.3d 812 (6th Cir. 2002).


         AAR has associational standing to raise the claims of its members. Int'l Union v. Brock, 477 U.S. 274, 281 (1986) (“Even in the absence of injury to itself, an association may have standing solely as the representative of its members”). All AAR must show is that: (1) one of its members would have standing to sue in its own right; (2) the relief it seeks is germane to its purpose; and (3) none of its members need to ...

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