United States District Court, District of Columbia
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
2015, Global Tropical Imports and Exports
(“Global”) imported various reptiles from
Tanzania. Federal regulations require valid permits to import
these reptiles. Because one of Global's permits was
invalid, the U.S. Department of the Interior fined the
company $15, 000. Global challenged that fine. The Court
found that the Department's decision to impose the
penalty complied with applicable laws and thus did not
violate the Administrative Procedure Act. See Glob.
Tropical Imports & Exports LLC v. Bernhardt, 366
F.Supp.3d 110 (D.D.C. 2019). Global has appealed that
decision. See Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 27. Now
before the Court is the company's Motion to Stay the
Enforcement of a Final Judgment, ECF No. 29. Because Global
has not met its burden of showing that a stay pending its
appeal is warranted, the Court denies the Motion.
begin with, Global's request for a stay appears to stem
from a dispute between the parties about whether the company
must deposit the amount of the fine and any applicable
interest into an escrow account. See ECF No. 29 at
1. But the Court's decision did not require Global to pay
the fine the Department imposed. See Glob. Tropical
Imports, 366 F.Supp.3d at 117 n.7. It noted that while
the Department asked the Court “to order Global to pay
the civil penalty and any applicable interest, ” the
Court “decline[d] to do so.” Id. The
Court explained that the Department's regulations
establish a procedure and certain requirements for collecting
such penalties, and that a Court order would circumvent those
regulations. See Id. (discussing 50 C.F.R. §
11.17). Thus, it is not clear that staying enforcement of the
Court's judgment- which concerned the validity of the
fine and not the terms of its payment-will have any effect on
the parties' dispute.
event, Global has not shown that a stay pending appeal is
warranted. Courts use a four-factor test to determine whether
to issue such a stay: “(1) whether the stay applicant
has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the
merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured
absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will
substantially injure the other parties interested in the
proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.”
Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434 (2009). A stay
“is not a matter of right, even if irreparable injury
might otherwise result, ” and the movant bears the
burden of showing that issuing a stay is justified.
first two factors of this test are “the most
critical.” Id. For the first factor to weigh
in its favor, Global must show a “substantial
indication of probable success” on the merits.
Va. Petrol'm Jobbers Ass'n v. Fed. Power
Comm'n, 259 F.2d 921, 925 (D.C. Cir. 1958) (emphasis
added). It has not done so. In fact, Global's motion
offers no arguments suggesting that it is likely to prevail
on appeal, or that the Court's decision was wrong.
See ECF No. 29. And as the Court explained, the law
imposes strict liability on commercial importers of the
reptiles in question for a failure to present a valid import
permit. Glob. Tropical Imports, 366 F.Supp.3d at
115. Global conceded that it is a commercial importer of
these reptiles and that one of its permits was unsigned.
See id. The company was therefore strictly liable
for this failure. Global has made no showing, much less a
“strong showing, ” that it will succeed on the
merits of its claim. Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. This
factor thus weighs against granting a stay.
the company shown that it will suffer irreparable harm. True,
Global is a “small business owned and operated by one
individual.” ECF No. 29 at 2. And small businesses can
no doubt face difficulties without adequate access to cash
funds for ongoing business operations. But irreparable harm
requires showing more than an adverse economic effect on a
business, even if that impact is substantial. See Wash.
Metro. Area Transit Comm'n v. Holiday Tours, Inc.,
559 F.2d 841, 843 n.2 (D.C. Cir. 1977) (noting that the
destruction of a business qualifies as an irreparable injury,
but monetary losses that can be repaid do not). Global does
not allege that placing funds into escrow will destroy its
business, force it to enter bankruptcy, or cause some other
sort of irreparable harm. And again, the Court's
decision did not order Global to pay the fine. Thus, the
Court finds that the second factor also weighs against
granting a stay.
the remaining factors, which “merge when the Government
is the opposing party.” Nken, 556 U.S. at 435.
These factors balance the public's interest against the
movant's interest, and the public interest is broadly
defined. See Va. Petrol'm Jobbers Ass'n v. Fed.
Power Comm'n, 259 F.2d 921, 925 (D.C. Cir. 1958).
Here, the public has a substantial interest in federal
agencies fulfilling their statutory duties. See Sierra
Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engin'rs, 990 F.Supp.2d
9, 43 (D.D.C. 2013). More, Congress passed the Endangered
Species Act and related laws under which the Department
imposed a fine on Global to safeguard the public's
interest in conserving vulnerable animal species.
See 16 U.S.C. § 1538(c)(1). Global fails to
allege a countervailing private interest sufficient to offset
the public's interest in compliance with these laws. So
the third and fourth factor weigh also against granting a
short, Global has failed to meet its burden of showing that a
stay pending its appeal is warranted. For these reasons, it
that Global's Motion for a Stay on Enforcement of a
Judgment, ECF No. 29, is hereby DENIED.