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Harris v. Federal Aviation Administration

August 29, 2002

ROBERT HARRIS ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos.: 25, 28

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING AS MOOT THE PLAINTIFFS' CROSS-MOTION FOR ADDITIONS TO THE ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD

I. INTRODUCTION

On August 9, 1981, President Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers for participatio n in an illegal strike and banned the Federal Aviation Administration ("the FAA" or "the defendant") *fn1 from rehiring them. This case deals with the FAA's implementation of President Clinton's August 12, 1993 directive to repeal this historic ban. The plaintiffs are certified professional air traffic controllers whom the FAA fired in 1981 and then rehired pursuant to President Clinton's directive. The plaintiffs argue that the FAA's decision to rehire all fired controllers at the GS-9 pay grade level violates the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.

This matter is currently before the court on the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, and on the plaintiffs' cross-motion for additions to the administrative record. The defendant argues that the statute of limitations bars the plaintiffs claim. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss, determining that the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, and denies as moot the plaintiffs' cross-motion.

II. BACKGROUND

In 1981, President Reagan banned from FAA employment all air traffic controllers who were members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization ("PATCO") and who were found to have participated in a labor strike. Compl. at 18. Twelve years later, on August 12, 1993, President Clinton issued a directive that rescinded the ban. Id. at 18. The FAA subsequently published Recruitment Notice 93-01, offering to rehire the controllers at the GS-2152-9 ("GS-9") pay grade level. A.R. at 14-16 (press releases regarding the recruitment notice), 26 (Recruitment Notice 93-01). *fn2 According to the plaintiffs, the FAA re-hired them, beginning in January 1995, at the GS-9 level, despite the fact that many of the controllers had pay grades higher than GS-9 when the FAA dismissed them in 1981. Id. at 20.

On March 8, 2001, the plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that the defendant acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and contrary to FAA policy by hiring the reinstated controllers at the GS-9 level. Id. at 20. The defendant moves to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss or for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss") at 1. The defendant argues that the issuance of the recruitment notice in 1993 is the final agency action that triggered the six-year statute of limitations for the plaintiffs' claim and that as a result, the statute of limitations expired in 1999. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 15. In contrast, the plaintiffs contend that the actual rehiring at the GS-9 level, which began in 1995, constitutes the administrative action that triggered the statute of limitations. Pls.' Opp'n at 2. The plaintiffs also move to supplement the administrative record. Id. at 1. Because the statute of limitations bars the plaintiffs' claim, the court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Consequently, the court has no jurisdiction to address the defendant's motion for summary judgment or the plaintiffs' cross-motion.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for a Motion to Dismiss

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction. Dist. of Columbia Ret. Bd. v. United States, 657 F. Supp. 428, 431 (D.D.C. 1987). In evaluating whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, the court must accept all of the complaint's well-pled factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982). The court need not, however, accept inferences unsupported by the facts alleged or legal conclusions that are cast as factual allegations. E.g., Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990).

Moreover, the court need not limit itself to the allegations of the complaint. Hohri v. United States, 782 F.2d 227, 241 (D.C. Cir. 1986), vacated on other grounds, 482 U.S. 64 (1987). Rather, the court may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the case. Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

B. The Court Grants the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Because the Statute of Limitations ...


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