The Federal Maritime Commission Newsroom

News

Supreme Court Grants the Commission's Petition for Writ of Certiorar

October 16, 2001

FEDERAL MARITIME COMMISSION

THE SUPREME COURT GRANTS
THE COMMISSION'S PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI

Washington, D.C. 20573

NR 01-10

CONTACT: CHRISTOPHER HUGHEY (202) 523-5740

FOR RELEASE: OCTOBER 16, 2001

Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Harold J. Creel, Jr. announced today that the United States Supreme Court has granted the Commission's petition for a writ of certiorari, and will review the decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in South Carolina State Ports Authority v. Federal Maritime Commission and United States of America, 243 F.2d 165 (March 12, 2001). That Fourth Circuit decision had overturned the Commission's ruling in South Carolina Maritime Services, Inc. v. South Carolina State Ports Authority, FMC Docket No. 99-21, in which the Commission found that the Eleventh Amendment and principles of state sovereign immunity from suit do not bar privately-initiated administrative adjudications against state-run marine terminal operators. The South Carolina State Ports Authority had appealed that ruling to the Fourth Circuit.

In overturning the Commission's decision, the Fourth Circuit concluded that sovereign immunity from suit is broader than the text of the Eleventh Amendment, and held that state sovereign immunity applies in adversarial-style proceedings before administrative agencies. Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit ordered the Commission to dismiss the privately-filed complaint.

The Commission's petition, filed on July 10, 2001, requested that the Supreme Court review the Fourth Circuit's decision. The South Carolina State Ports Authority and the U.S. Solicitor General opposed the Commission's petition. The National Association of Waterfront Employers, the Carriers Container Council, and the United States Maritime Alliance filed amici curiae briefs in support of the Commission's petition.

Chairman Creel was pleased by the Supreme Court's determination to review the Fourth Circuit's decision. "The Commission has believed throughout this proceeding that the agency's authority to hear administrative complaints against ports, whether they are state-run marine terminals or privately-run marine terminals, is crucial to effective and evenhanded regulation under the Shipping Act of 1984. I am glad that the Supreme Court has agreed that the issue is important enough to meet the difficult standards for granting certiorari."

The case is entitled Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina State Ports Authority, Supreme Court Docket No. 01-46.