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ATA v. City of Los Angeles: All Politics - and Courts -are Local

By Joel Anderson | 06/19/2013 | 6:04 AM

The legacy of the American Trucking Associations v. City of Los Angeles case is this: The more distance the judges (both physically and emotionally) were removed from the case, the more accurate the judicial rulings. The ultimate decision? A 9-0 slam dunk eliminating the City of Los Angeles power grab against Congress and validating the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

This case history is a script about how difficult it is for law to prevail unless business is willing to invest millions of dollars in getting the case out of the venue of the home crowd.  In a decision reversed and remanded by the very liberal 9th Circuit, the Los Angeles-based District Court trial judge ruled Los Angeles City has the powers to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, despite the fact Congress had specifically extended its power to deregulate at federal, state, regional and local levels.

On remand, the District Court judge still found reasons for the regulation to continue. The judge simply took into account those areas that the 9th Circuit said were wrong. ATA then had to go back to 9th Circuit to undo once again the ruling of the District Court judge.   The 9th Circuit reversed a second time, but still let in certain powers of the City of Los Angeles with respect to placarding and parking.

ATA then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, being both 3,000 miles away from Los Angeles and the 9th Circuit read the facts as a matter of law. Justice Elena Kagan, an appointee of President Barack Obama, wrote the court’s opinion. The nine justices found no basis in law for City of Los Angeles’ regulatory scheme. 

Here’s the bottom line: Were it not for ATA members investing millions of dollars to seek a hearing and review of the law at the Supreme Court, our industry would again be facing bad laws out of California.  The City of Los Angeles, taking advantage of taxpayer-funded legal expenses, and a District Judge (who lived in the area) devised a scheme that lost 9-0 at the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The International Warehouse Logistics Association’s retained labor attorney Kerryann Haase Minton always reminds me “that distance brings objectivity.” This is one of the many reasons she is my second opinion on all personnel matters. As the ATA v. City of Los Angeles case demonstrates, distance also brings objectivity in the application of the rule of law.  

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About Joel Anderson

Joel Anderson

Joel D. Anderson is president and CEO of the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA). Based in Des Plaines, Ill., IWLA is the 120-year-old association of the warehouse-based third-party logistics industry, with 500 members in the U.S. and Canada. Before joining IWLA, Anderson spent 28 years at the California Trucking Association, the last 13 as executive vice president and CEO. An economist by training and profession, Anderson was also a past board member of Cascade Sierra Solutions. He is a frequent speaker before supply chain industry groups.



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