United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. MEHTA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
September 14, 2017, Defendant Unified Carrier Registration
Plan Board ("Board") held a meeting in which it
decided to postpone the start of the annual registration
period for motor carriers, brokers, and freight forwarders
from October 1, 2017, to November 1, 2017. The Board adopted
the 30-day postponement to give the Secretary of
Transportation more time to act on a rate reduction proposal
that the Board had submitted to the Secretary six months
earlier. The manner in which the Board noticed the September
14th meeting did not comply with federal law. Under the
Sunshine Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552b, the Board was required to
publicly announce meeting information. Although the Board
notified prior Board-meeting attendees of the September 14th
meeting, it failed to publish information regarding the
meeting's time, location, and subject matter in the
Federal Register, as required by the Sunshine Act. Following
the Board's action, Defendant Indiana Department of
Revenue, which administers the website on which entities
register, complied with the Board's 30-day postponement
and delayed the start of the fee and registration collection
12 Percent Logistics, Inc., and the Small Business in
Transportation Coalition, a registrant and trade group
representing registrants, respectively, filed suit against
the Board and the Indiana Department of Revenue and its
Commissioner, Adam J. Krupp, in his official capacity. They
allege that they did not receive notice of the September 14th
meeting and claim the 30-day postponement of the registration
date harms them. Now before the court is Plaintiffs'
Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary
Injunction, in which Plaintiffs ask this court to enter an
injunction that (1) reverses the Board's postponement of
the registration date and compels the Board and the two state
defendants (collectively "INDOR") to immediately
begin accepting registrations and fees payments, and (2)
prevents the Board from future Sunshine Act violations.
court concludes that Plaintiffs are not entitled to the
drastic relief they seek. Although Plaintiffs have
demonstrated that they are likely to prove that the Board
violated the Sunshine Act when it failed to give proper
notice of the September 14th meeting, the Sunshine Act does
not authorize the court to invalidate the Board's
decision to postpone the registration date. The court also
finds that enjoining the Board from violating the Sunshine
Act in the future is unwarranted when Plaintiffs have
identified only one prior violation. Instead, the appropriate
remedy for the Board's violation is to compel the Board
to make public records memorializing what transpired at the
non-conforming meeting. The court, therefore, orders the
Board to immediately disclose all draft minutes, transcripts,
and recordings of the September 14th meeting.
Plaintiffs' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Unified Carrier Registration ("UCR") program is a
federally created system for registering and collecting fees
from motor carriers, motor private carriers, brokers, freight
forwarders, and leasing companies, whose commercial vehicles
travel in interstate commerce. See 49 U.S.C. §
14504a. The UCR program is overseen and implemented by a
15-member board of directors ("the Board")
appointed by the Secretary of Transportation. See
Id. § 14504a(d)(1). The Board's primary
function is to implement the "UCR Agreement, " an
interstate agreement that governs the collection and
distribution of fees paid by motor carriers and other covered
entities, and registration and financial responsibility
information. See Id. § 14504a(a)(8), (d)(2).
Those businesses register with the UCR and pay fees annually,
and that revenue is routed back to the states that have opted
into the registration system. Id. §
14504a(f)(4), (h). Forty-one states participate in the UCR
Agreement, but the District of Columbia does not appear to be
one of them. See Def.'s Opp'n, ECF No.25, Ex. 1, ECF
No.25-1 [hereinafter Jefferson Decl.], ¶ 3; see
Unified Carrier Registration Sys., IN GOV UCR
Application, https://www.ucr.in.gov/ucrHome.html (last
visited Oct. 17, 2017) (identifying the District of Columbia
as a "non-participating" state).
rates charged to UCR registrants are set by the Secretary of
Transportation based on the Board's recommendations. 49
U.S.C. § 14504a(d)(7). Whenever the Board proposes a
change to the annual rates, the Secretary is statutorily
required to provide notice and an opportunity for public
comment and to act on the Board's recommendation within
90 days. Id. § 14504a(d)(7). The UCR Plan pays
Defendant INDOR to operate the program's registration
website for the states that have opted into the system.
See Compl., ECF No. 1 [hereinafter Compl.],
¶¶ 8-9; Compl., Attach. 1, ECF No. 1-1 [hereinafter
Pls.' Exs.], at 37-43, 44-55 (Exs. 3 & 4).
meeting held on March 14, 2017, the Board voted to recommend
that the Secretary change the rates to be charged in 2018 and
2019. Compl. ¶25. The proposed rates were lower than
those charged in recent years-a move the Board said at oral
argument was prompted by the concern that the current fee
structure, if continued, would cause the Board to exceed the
amount of money it is lawfully permitted to hold.
See 49 U.S.C. § 14504a(h)(3), (4); Hr'g Tr.
(draft), Oct. 12, 2017, at 39. The new rate proposal,
however, stalled in the hands of the Secretary, who took no
formal action within the statutorily mandated 90-day period
after the Board's recommendation. Compl. ¶¶ 26,
the Secretary more time to act, the Board convened a meeting
on September 14, 2017, and voted to delay the start of the
annual UCR registration period by 30 days. Compl. ¶27.
The Board neither publicly announced nor submitted in the
Federal Register any information about the September 14th
meeting, but did send an e-mail to past Board-meeting
attendees. Jefferson Decl. ¶ 9. The Board's decision
shifted the start of registration for the coming calendar
year from October 1, as called for by the UCR Agreement, to
November 1. Pls.' Exs. at 13(Ex. 2). But because the
Board did not push back the December 31, 2017, end-date for
registration, the action compressed the registration period
from three months to two months. Compl. ¶ 29. The Board
directed Defendant INDOR, which accepts registrations and
collects fees on the Board's behalf through a state-run
website, to postpone the opening date for registration.
Id. ¶¶ 8, 33; Jefferson Decl. ¶ 10.
The Indiana Department of Revenue complied. Compl. ¶
by the Board's Sunshine Act violation and its decision to
postpone the start of registration, Plaintiffs filed a
four-count Complaint on September 27, 2017. Count I alleges
that the Board violated the Sunshine Act when it failed to
properly notice the September 14th meeting. See
Compl. ¶¶ 37-45. Count II alleges that the Board
violated the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"),
5 U.S.C. § 706, by holding the inadequately noticed
meeting. Compl. ¶¶ 46-51. In Count III, the
Plaintiffs assert that the Board's decision to delay the
registration period was arbitrary and capricious, which also
violated the APA. Id. ¶¶ 52-63. Lastly,
Count IV alleges that INDOR acted "unlawfully" by
postponing UCR registration until November 1 because it was
obligated to begin accepting renewals and fees on October 1,
under the terms of the UCR Agreement. Id.
¶¶ 64-71. (As discussed below, Plaintiffs
subsequently abandoned Counts Hand III, and now proceed only
as to Counts I and IV.)
simultaneously moved for a temporary restraining order and
preliminary injunction against the Board. They ask the court
to reverse the Board's decision to postpone the
registration period, enjoin the Board from future violations
of the Sunshine Act, and order INDOR to accept UCR
registrations and fee payments on October 1. See Pls.'
Mot. for TRO & Prelim. Inj., ECF No. 2 [hereinafter
Board opposed Plaintiffs' motion. In their reply brief,
Plaintiffs abandoned their APA claims, conceding that that
the Board is not an "agency" subject to the
requirements of the APA.Pls.' Reply, ECF No. 29, at 10-11.
After Plaintiffs' Motion was fully briefed, the court
heard oral argument on October 12, 2017.
Plaintiffs' Claim ...