The law is an ass


By Birdsong 3/30/08

Many years ago Birdsong read a novel by Charles Dickens. Birdsong does not remember which Dickens’ novel, however he does remember a colloquy between two of the characters. The first character explains the workings of a new British law to the second character. Upon hearing of the new law the second character responds incredulously: “Sir, if that is the law, then the law is an ass! Since that time Birdsong has often read of new laws or legal rulings that reminds him that the Dickens character was correct in describing the “law as an ass.” Here is the latest case on point.
A few days ago the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuits over turned a recently enacted New York law that required airlines to give food, water, claean toilets and fresh air to passengers stuck in delayed planes. The law was struck down by the court that noted that though the measure was well interntioned it was violative of federal authority.

The law had been passed after thousands of passengers were stranded for up to ten hours on several JetBlue Airways flights at Kennedy International Airport on Valentine’s Day in 2007. The passengers complained of being deprived of food and water and that the toilets overflowed. A month later passengers of other airlines were stranded aboard other airlines at Kennedy after an ice storm.

The law was challenged by the Air Transport Association of America, the industry trade group representing leading U.S. airlines.

The Second Circuit held that though the goals of the law were “laudable” and the circumstances prompting its adoption “deplorable,” only the federal government has the authority to pass such regulations.

Birdsong who does understands the federal preemption doctrine nevertheless says: Sir, if that is the law then the law is an ass!

See: Air Transport Ass’n of America, Inc. v. Cuomo, No. 07-5771-cv, slip op (2d Cir. March 25 2008). 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 6130



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