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American Great Lakes Ports Association v. Zukunft

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 26, 2016

AMERICAN GREAT LAKES PORTS ASSOCIATION, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ADMIRAL PAUL F. ZUKUNFT, Commandant, United States Coast Guard, et al., Defendants.

         Re Document, : 6

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER GRANTING THE PILOTS ASSOCIATIONS' MOTION TO INTERVENE

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION[1]

         Plaintiffs in this case are shipping companies and related associations that are affected by the costs of shipping services. See Compl. ¶¶ 6-14, ECF No. 1; Pls.' Resp. Mot. Intervene (“Pls.' Resp.”) 1 n.1, ECF No. 10. Because Plaintiffs' vessels transit the waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes system, Plaintiffs' costs include required payments of pilotage rates to United States and Canadian pilots. See Compl. ¶ 19; Pls.' Resp. 1 n.1. Under the Great Lakes Pilotage Act of 1960, [2] Plaintiffs must use United States and Canadian pilots when transiting those waters. Compl. ¶ 19. The United States Coast Guard prescribes the relevant pilotage rates by regulation and annually reviews them. Id. ¶¶ 19-20.

         Plaintiffs have initiated the present action against the Coast Guard and its Commandant to challenge the Coast Guard's 2016 rule on pilotage rates, which established new rate setting methodologies and resulted in rate increases. See Id. ¶¶ 2-5, 15-16. See generally Great Lakes Pilotage Rates-2016 Annual Review and Changes to Methodology, 81 Fed. Reg. 11, 908 (Mar. 7, 2016) (to be codified in scattered sections of 46 C.F.R.). Plaintiffs contend that the Coast Guard violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”)[3] in numerous ways. See Id. ¶¶ 4, 29-83 (alleging APA violations under 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), (C), (D)). As relief, Plaintiffs ask the Court to set aside the Coast Guard's final rule, to remand this case to the Coast Guard so that it may review and revise its rule, and to order the Coast Guard to “immediately” reduce its 2016 pilotage rates by 20.6 percent. See Id. at 20-21.

         Before Defendants filed their answer, three pilots associations (“Pilots Associations”) filed a joint motion to intervene in support of Defendants in this case. See Mot. of St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Ass'n, Lakes Pilots Ass'n, Inc., and Western Great Lakes Pilots Ass'n, LLP to Intervene Supp. Defs. (“Mot. Intervene”), ECF No. 6. The Pilots Associations are “the three pilotage associations authorized to provide pilotage services on the Great Lakes” under the Great Lakes Pilotage Act. Id. at 1-2; see 46 U.S.C. § 9304(a). Their member pilots guide foreign vessels on the Great Lakes. Mem. P. & A Supp. Mot. Intervene (“Mem. Supp. Mot. Intervene”) 2, ECF No. 6-1. The Pilots Associations seek to intervene in this case by right or, alternatively, with the Court's permission. See Mot. Intervene 2.

         Neither Plaintiffs nor Defendants oppose the motion to intervene. See Pls.' Resp. 1; Defs.' Statement of Position Regarding Pls.' Resp. Mot. Intervene (“Defs.' Statement”) 1 n.1, ECF No. 12. Plaintiffs urge the Court, however, to impose conditions on the Pilots Association's participation in this case. See Pls.' Resp. 1-3. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion to intervene without imposing Plaintiffs' requested conditions.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a),

[o]n timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who . . . claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2); see also Roane v. Leonhart, 741 F.3d 147, 151 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (“A district court must grant a timely motion to intervene that seeks to protect an interest that might be impaired by the action and that is not adequately represented by the parties.”). The D.C. Circuit has read Rule 24(a) as requiring four distinct showings before a party may intervene as a matter of right: “(1) the application to intervene must be timely; (2) the applicant must demonstrate a legally protected interest in the action; (3) the action must threaten to impair that interest; and (4) no party to the action can be an adequate representative of the applicant's interests.” Karsner v. Lothian, 532 F.3d 876, 885 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting SEC v. Prudential Sec. Inc., 136 F.3d 153, 156 (D.C. Cir. 1998)). In addition, the D.C. Circuit has held that “intervenors must demonstrate Article III standing.” Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co. v. FDIC, 717 F.3d 189, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2013).[4]

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Intervention

         Because neither Plaintiffs nor Defendants oppose the Pilots Associations' motion to intervene, the Court addresses the merits of the motion under the D.C. Circuit's four-prong test only briefly. With respect to the first requirement, the timeliness of the motion to intervene, “courts should take into account (a) the time elapsed since the inception of the action, (b) the probability of prejudice to those already party to the proceedings, (c) the purpose for which intervention is sought, and (d) the need for intervention as a means for preserving the putative intervenor's rights.” Wildearth Guardians v. Salazar, 272 F.R.D. 4, 12 (D.D.C. 2010). Here, the motion to intervene was filed just over one month after Plaintiffs' complaint, and the parties have not yet filed dispositive motions. See Compl. (filed May 31, 2016); Mot. Intervene (filed July 6, 2016). Additionally, the motion to intervene is unopposed. See Pls.' Resp. 1; Defs.' Statement 1 n.1. On this record, there is no indication that the Pilots Associations' intervention will prejudice any of the parties involved, and the Court finds that their ...


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