Santa Monica Files Brief in Battle with FAA over Jet Ban

JUNE 12, 2008

The City of Santa Monica this week bolstered its motion asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow it to enforce an ordinance banning larger, faster jets at Santa Monica Airport. In a brief filed Monday the City argues that it is likely to prevail in its effort to stay a lower court order prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance banning C and D aircraft at the 62-year-old municipal airport.

In its motion and supporting brief the City argues that it is likely to prevail on the merits of the case against the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) determination that the ordinance is illegal because the City is merely trying to implement federal runway standards. The City also contends that the FAA's interim cease and desist orders were issued illegally without a hearing, that as airport proprietor it has the legal right to protect public safety and limit its own liability and that the Tenth Amendment protects the City from federal coercion.

The FAA's case, City Attorney Marsha Moutrie wrote, "rests upon a strained construction of its own regulations, a general argument that all of its orders must be accorded deference, irrespective of their propriety of merit, and the unsupported assertion that effectuating the City's Ordinance during the pendency of this case will somehow cripple air transport in the region."

In ordering the City to suspend the ordinance approved by the council in April, the FAA argued that the measure -- which bans jets with approach speeds of between 139 and 191 mph -- is unnecessary and would harm jet operators.

The City has called the federal government's challenge a "legal assault" on an ordinance responding to increasing concerns that soaring jet traffic -- from 4,829 jet operations in 1994 to 18,575 last year -- is putting neighboring homes, as well as pilots, in danger.

Last month, the City filed an application to postpone enforcement of the ruling after a U.S. District judge ordered it to comply with the Interim Order issued by the FAA barring the City from imposing fines to pilots who violate the new law. City officials argued that the agency's Interim Cease & Desist Orders were unlawfully issued and "no significant harm would result from issuance of a stay," which would "promote the public interest."

The federal agency filed opposition, leading to the brief filed Monday arguing that the FAA's determination "has been made illegally and in contravention of federal regulations."

If the motion is granted, the City will be able to enforce its ordinance, said Kate Vernez, a senior analyst for the City Manager.

Source: Lookout News

See also:

Links to all legal documents

United States v. City of Santa Monica, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, CV 08-2695 GW, FAA Docket 16-02-08

United States v. City of Santa Monica, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 08-55869