992 F.Supp. 411 (CIT. 1997), 92-04-00244, Innotech Aviation Ltd. v. United States

Docket Nº:Court No. 92-04-00244.
Citation:992 F.Supp. 411
Party Name:INNOTECH AVIATION LTD., Plaintiff, v. The UNITED STATES, Defendant. No. Slip Op. 97-175.
Case Date:December 18, 1997
Court:Court of International Trade
 
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Page 411

992 F.Supp. 411 (CIT. 1997)

INNOTECH AVIATION LTD., Plaintiff,

v.

The UNITED STATES, Defendant.

No. Slip Op. 97-175.

Court No. 92-04-00244.

United States Court of International Trade.

Dec. 18, 1997

Page 412

Stafford, Trombley, Purcell, Lahtinen, Owens & Curtin, P.C. (William L. Owens), for plaintiff.

Frank W. Hunger, Assistant Attorney General; Joseph I. Liebman, Attorney in Charge, International Trade Field Office, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice (Barbara M. Epstein), for defendant.

OPINION

MUSGRAVE, Senior Judge.

This action is before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment pursuant to CIT R. 56. Plaintiff, Innotech Aviation, Ltd. ("Innotech"), contests the denial by the United States Customs Service ("Customs") of a protest seeking duty-free entry of a civil aircraft engine.

Background

The dispute in this case concerns the duty rate applicable to an aircraft engine imported by Innotech. The aircraft engine was entered on January 10, 1990, and remained in the U.S. for sixty days as a replacement engine for an aircraft whose original engine was undergoing repairs. Innotech filed entry documents claiming duty-free entry for the replacement engine pursuant to the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft ("ATCA"). Along with the entry documents, Customs' regulations require an importer to file a certification attesting to the eligibility

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of its merchandise for duty-free treatment under the ATCA, or to have on file with Customs an approved "blanket" certification, covering all qualifying merchandise for up to one year, to the same effect. Innotech did not file an entry-by-entry certification with the entry documents for its engine, but did submit a blanket certification request to Customs before the entry of its aircraft engine. Customs alleged that it did not have Innotech's blanket certification on file at the time of entry of the aircraft engine, however, and entered the engine under the claimed classification but without the additional "C" prefix denoting duty-free entry, instead charging a 5% duty rate on the engine.

Innotech protested on March 19, 1991, asserting that it had submitted a blanket certification request to Customs on November 9, 1989, two months before the aircraft engine was entered. Innotech's protest included a copy of the blanket certification request and a description of the chain of events linking the blanket certification request's movements from Innotech to its customs' broker, F.W. Myers, and finally to Customs. Customs argued that it had no record of receiving the certification request, and stated, in denying the protest, that Innotech's failure to have a blanket ATCA certification on file or presented at the time of the entry of the aircraft engine precluded Innotech from the privilege of duty-free entry. Innotech asserts that Customs did have the certification at the time of entry, but Customs contends that the certification itself is legally insufficient to qualify for ATCA treatment and thus could not have been approved at the time of entry. Innotech asserts that the certification was legally sufficient, and that Customs should have accepted its claimed entry classification. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1581(a), and finds that Innotech's ATCA certification is legally sufficient and that the Customs service erred in refusing Innotech duty-free classification for its engine.

Standard of Review

Decisions of the Customs Service are presumed to be correct, 28 U.S.C. § 2639(a)(1) (1994), but the presumption of correctness applies solely to factual questions and it is the duty of this Court to find the correct result. 1 The classification decision entails a three-step process including a factual and a legal inquiry, and an ultimate mixed question involving both factual and legal components. The factual inquiry is subject to the "clearly erroneous" standard while the purely legal and ultimate mixed questions are reviewed de novo. Bausch & Lomb, Inc. v. United States, 21 CIT ----, ----, 957 F.Supp. 281, 284 (1997).

Both parties have moved for summary judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact ... and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." CIT R. 56(d); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "The party opposing summary judgment may not rest on its pleadings, but must respond with specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial." Pfaff American Sales Corp. v. United States, 16 CIT 1073, 1075 (1992) (citations omitted).

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit considers the use of summary judgment to be an efficient mechanism for the resolution of disputes.

The recent trilogy of Supreme Court cases establishes that "[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed 'to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.' "

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Avia Group Int'l, Inc. v. L.A. Gear California, Inc., 853 F.2d 1557 (Fed.Cir.1988) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2555, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). The Court finds that no genuine issue as to any material fact exists in this case.

Discussion

This case presents the Court with one issue: whether the ATCA certification that Innotech submitted to Customs is legally sufficient to qualify for ATCA duty-free treatment. On this purely legal question, the Court finds that Innotech's ATCA certification is legally sufficient and that Customs erred in not granting Innotech's duty-free classification for its aircraft engine.

As a preliminary matter, Customs states in its briefs that it never received Innotech's blanket certification request and thus could not grant Innotech's duty-free classification. Customs argues that its regulations bar an importer's goods from duty-free treatment under the ATCA where the importer fails to file an ATCA certification either prior to or simultaneous with the entry of ATCA-eligible goods. Customs' regulation reads:

At the time of filing the entry summary, the importer of civil aircraft parts shall submit...

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