Amtrak Priority Law Goes to Supreme Court (Decided 3/9/15)

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by William W., Jul 11, 2014.

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  1. Jul 11, 2014 #1

    William W.

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    William W.

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    SCOTUS has agreed to hear the lawsuit over the law that requires Amtrak trains to receive dispatching priority, and allows for the railroads to be fined if they are found in violation of the law.

    It'll definitely be interesting to see how this unfolds. If the Supreme Court rules the law unconstitutional, does it mean that Amtrak's trains will be forevermore late? I'd imagine that the freight companies would use the decision to disrupt the operation of the LD trains as much as possible, with the eventual goal of driving them off the rails completely.

    On the other hand, if the law is upheld, it will hopefully give Amtrak the muscle that it needs to force the freight companies to follow the law. We could potentially see a big jump in OTP if the law is upheld.

    I'm not a lawyer(yet), but I've studied enough to know that Amtrak should have a pretty strong case here. If the government can make the case that Amtrak is a federal entity, and not a detached corporation, they should be able to use the commerce clause pretty successfully.

    Thoughts, anyone?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-23/amtrak-rulemaking-clash-draws-scrutiny-from-supreme-court.html
     
  2. Jul 11, 2014 #2

    Cole737

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    I sure do hope this law is upheld. We will see amtrak the way it's supposed to be.
     
  3. Jul 11, 2014 #3

    NW cannonball

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    The SCOTUS case is ostensibly about how a law affects the application of a rulemaking.

    Clear? no -- that's why SCOTUS took the case.

    Hoping for a helpful decision -- but any likely decision will just throw the issue back to Congress, the agencies, and the lower courts. Patience is a virtue. We riders will need a lot of patience. Like always.
     
  4. Jul 11, 2014 #4

    Anderson

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    The problem is that the law was badly written. If the FRA had been charged with making the rule and had written it exactly the same way, we wouldn't be here. If the law had just outright dictated the result, the same thing applies.

    As to the issue of Amtrak being entangled with the government, I see three issues:
    (1) Amtrak is, legally, a corporation (ironically, with several Class Is as shareholders). In theory, the government could sell off Amtrak (or sell off Amtrak franchises in some fashion), and if the law still applied, you'd have a real problem (and imagine if Amtrak did another freight experiment...).

    (2) Ok, what happens when the Class I is a mess and that's the reason for the delays? I'm thinking the Hi-Line situation (where nothing has been on time for a while). Should BNSF be fined for Amtrak delays when their own operations are in a meltdown? Likewise, consider the Amfreight scenario here as well.
    (3) Finally, let's consider an odd scenario: Amtrak operating on the FEC alongside FEC passenger trains. I understand not wanting Amtrak to be mistreated and given far, far worse handling than the FEC/AAF trains, but (again presuming an internal issue causing FEC heartburn as much as Amtrak) should FEC be forced to give Amtrak priority handling over their own passenger trains?
     
  5. Jul 11, 2014 #5

    NW cannonball

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    Thinking this thread needs moved to the Constitutional Law discussion.

    Not relevent to Amtrak riders for years and years.
     
  6. Jul 11, 2014 #6

    Ryan

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    Charlie posted a while ago, that NARP has been lobbying to get Congress to do exactly that, and get Amtrak out of the process. That would make this court case go away. Alternatively, Congress may be waiting for the Court to say "No, you can't do that" and then they'll swoop in and make the change.

    http://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?/topic/58405-eb-mess/?p=529337

     
  7. Jul 11, 2014 #7

    VentureForth

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    Amtrak, as well as many supporters here in this forum (which don't leagally matter in any way), have argued since its inception that they are a for-profit corporation created by and funded by the government.
    They do everything in the world they can to say they are not a government agency - except take our money.

    I don't think that the commerce clause would be relevant in this case - rather just a matter as others have said about how well or poorly the initial law was written and if there is any constitutional barrier that would have made it "bad law" over the past 44 years.
     
  8. Jul 11, 2014 #8

    jphjaxfl

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    All Aboard Florida will be operating the proposed Miami to Orlando passenger trains. They will be operated on the Florida East Coast Railway. If Amtrak had funding for Jacksonville to Miami passenger trains, they too could contract with the Florida East Coast Railway to operate Amtrak trains. The concern will be how All aboard Florida and Amtrak would coordinate since AAF will be intrastate with limitations and Amtrak in interstate. Amtrak would also compete with AAF between Orlando and South Florida points.
     
  9. Jul 11, 2014 #9
    20 bucks says it'll be yet ANOTHER 5-4 decision by the Roberts court..., going against Amtrak of course
     
  10. Jul 11, 2014 #10

    Bob Dylan

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    Campaign Contributions(Bribes) by Freight RRs to Politicians= Millions!!!!

    Amtrak's Bribes, er CCs= 0$$

    Supreme Court Decision= 5-4 for RRs

    Winner: Class Is!!! No Contest!!!
     
  11. Jul 11, 2014 #11

    VentureForth

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    Not entirely. The route between West Palm Beach and Miami would be different routing and stations. Not even sure if WPB would share a station, but if they do, it'd be the only connection between AAF and Amtrak (and Tri-Rail which DOES compete directly with Amtrak, but it's government so no one cares?)

    You mean *gasp* if they uphold the constitution?
     
  12. Jul 11, 2014 #12

    jis

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    Different stations at WPB and also at Fort Lauderdale. The entire Orlando to Miami routing is different. When Amtrak starts operating on FEC they will cross over from FEC to ex-CSX just north of WPB, and then go to the Airport Station past Hialeah. The proposed AAF service is not allowed to coordinate with Amtrak in order to maintain its independence from the STB.
    It is mostly absurd to think that Amtrak and AAF will actually be competing for anything between Orlando and Miami anyway. One is a dedicated focused higher speed corridor service. The other is a traditional 20th century LD service. No contest for O/D riders between Miami and Orlando. Just about as much competition Silver Star/Meteor and Crescent are to Acela on the NEC.
     
  13. Jul 11, 2014 #13

    Ryan

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    Well that's because you physically can't book a LD ticket on the NEC - what do you think the odds are of Amtrak doing something similar in FL? (I'm thinking slim to none)
     
  14. Jul 11, 2014 #14

    jis

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    So you really believe that if Amtrak sold tickets hoards of Acela passenger would abandon Acelas and move to the LD trains on the NEC? OK. I think one of us may be a bit disconnected from reality. ;) :p :hi:

    A choice between a service that gets the highest priority and does not depend on OTP being intimately married to what happens to it cross country on a freight railroad which gives it questionable priority at best, vs. a dedicated service serving a specific corridor with the highest priority that prides itself on that service running in a timely manner to compete against airlines and such. I think it should be pretty obvious. but maybe not.
     
  15. Jul 11, 2014 #15

    neroden

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    Unfortunately, the Roberts Court is a crapshoot, since they have shown flagrant disregard for precedent (even their own precedents), flagrant disregard for the factual record, and flagrant disregard for the intent of Congress. Repeatedly.

    It would be best if Congress fixed the way the law was written.

    In the meantime, the Supreme Court is like a gambling house, you can only guess how they'll rule, because law and precedent has nothing to do with their rulings lately. As Sotomayor explained in detail in the dissent to the Wheaton College "ruling".

    Unfortunately the best way to guess how the Corrupt Five will rule is to look at the parties to the case, while ignoring the actual content of the case. So, you can expect a ruling against Amtrak because Amtrak is associated with "liberals". If we get lucky, some of them will decide that they like passenger trains or that trains are "conservative", and vote for Amtrak. *Law isn't supposed to work this way*, but nowadays it does at the US Supreme Court. The movement which believes in describing this phenomenon and treating it as real is known as "legal realism", and it's depressing.
     
  16. Jul 11, 2014 #16

    VentureForth

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    I can see a surge of NEC Commuters hoarding up sleeping car units between NYP and WAS. :eek:
     
  17. Jul 11, 2014 #17

    VentureForth

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    POV.
    I see the Corrupt Nine. That's where I'll stop this hokey political jab.
     
  18. Jul 11, 2014 #18

    gmushial

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    Interesting comment... would they be, and how so? Care to explain the point? Please.
     
  19. Jul 11, 2014 #19

    neroden

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    I've spent years reading Supreme Court rulings. The Justices aren't all the same -- some are *much* worse. Breyer's opinions are always worth reading, and he seems to operate according to some sense of law and precedent and facts, even if one disagrees on his decision.

    Kennedy's rulings are wooly-headed but sincere and he seems to be making a real attempt to use the law and precedent and the facts, even though his rulings are always fuzzy-minded and vague.

    By contrast, Scalia's rulings aren't worth reading, unless you want to see gross intellectual dishonesty on display. He has a nasty tendency to directly contradict *his own* previous rulings without admitting it. He'll argue one side of the argument one week and the other side the next week, depending on who the litigants are. A fine trait for a lawyer; but a really terrible trait for a judge. I have been getting more and more disgusted with his BS every year; he disgraces the US court system.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 11, 2014
  20. Jul 11, 2014 #20
    Ginsburg thinks Scalia is brilliant, even though she disagrees with him virtually all the time. Of course Ginsburg's nowhere near as smart as you, neroden.
     
  21. Jul 11, 2014 #21

    gmushial

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    Yes, Ginsburg makes no bones about such views, but such doesn't make him a good or worthwhile justice, ie, one does not make the other - merely that she enjoys intellectually arm-wrestling with him. Beyond that: over time I think you'll find Neroden is one of the clearer thinkers here - making comments to contrary merely reflect upon yourself. :-(
     
  22. Jul 11, 2014 #22

    Ryan

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    Of course I don't think that, it would be absurd. Just pointing out that for the purpose of NEC travelers, the LD trains may as well not exist, so it's not really a fair fight.

    I do agree with VF that some folks (myself included) would opt for a room, even on the NEC if it were possible. But there's not the capacity to move anything approaching hoards off of the Acela.
     
  23. Jul 11, 2014 #23

    Devil's Advocate

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    I can't think of a worse Supreme Court to be deciding this ruling in my lifetime.
     
  24. Jul 11, 2014 #24

    Green Maned Lion

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    Being brilliant and being fair/just are not mutually dependent.

    Hitler was brilliant. Stalin was brilliant. Castro is brilliant. Madoff is brilliant.

    Neroden is a bright guy. Not as bright as me, but who is? Seriously, being cynical does not mean one is not bright. Infact I'd say there is an impressive positive correlation between intelligence and cynicism.
     
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  25. Jul 11, 2014 #25

    neroden

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    Scalia's very smart in a technical sense, he's just intellectually dishonest. Most of the individual arguments he makes are very good (the biggest exception is Bush v. Gore, where there simply was no good argument to be made for the ruling Scalia wanted to make); the trouble is he has no consistency -- another way to put it is "no principles".

    I disrepect that a lot. Though I will concede that I've heard some really solid arguments for why *lawyers* should be like that (argue the best you can for whatever client you have got this week, regardless of what client you had last week), judges should NOT be like that.

    There's actually a reason this country used to appoint more non-lawyers as judges; the mentality of a litigator is all wrong for a judge.
     
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