Island Park, LLC v. Csx Transp., Docket No. 07-3125-CV(L).

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
Writing for the CourtWesley
Citation559 F.3d 96
PartiesISLAND PARK, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant, v. CSX TRANSPORTATION and Consolidated Rail Corporation, National Railroad Passenger Service ("Amtrak"), Thomas J. Madison Jr., In his Capacity as Commissioner of the State of New York Department of Transportation ("NYSDOT") and Dennison P. Cottrell, In his Capacity as Director of the Passenger and Freight Safety Division of NYSDOT, Defendants-Appellants-Cross-Appellees.
Docket NumberDocket No. 07-3288-CV(CON).,Docket No. 07-3125-CV(L).,Docket No. 07-3283-CV(CON).,Docket No. 07-3281-CV(XAP).
Decision Date04 March 2009
559 F.3d 96
ISLAND PARK, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION and Consolidated Rail Corporation, National Railroad Passenger Service ("Amtrak"), Thomas J. Madison Jr., In his Capacity as Commissioner of the State of New York Department of Transportation ("NYSDOT") and Dennison P. Cottrell, In his Capacity as Director of the Passenger and Freight Safety Division of NYSDOT, Defendants-Appellants-Cross-Appellees.
Docket No. 07-3125-CV(L).
Docket No. 07-3288-CV(CON).
Docket No. 07-3281-CV(XAP).
Docket No. 07-3283-CV(CON).
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
Argued: October 16, 2008.
Decided and Amended: March 4, 2009.

[559 F.3d 97]

Carter Phillips (G. Paul Moates, Paul A. Hemmersbaugh and Matthew J. Warren, on the brief), Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC, and Susan C. Roney and Benjamin

[559 F.3d 98]

Dwyer, Nixon Peabody, LLP, Buffalo, NY, for Appellants CSX Transportation Inc. & Consolidated Rail Corporation.

Frank Brady, Assistant Solicitor General, for Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General of the State of New York, for Appellants Madison and Cottrell.

J. Michael Naughton, Young Sommer, LLC, Albany, NY, for Appellees.

Before JACOBS, Chief Judge, WESLEY, Circuit Judge, and ARCARA, District Judge.1

WESLEY, Circuit Judge:


Many appeals require this Court to chart the point at which state authority yields to federal power. In this case, that intersection is not merely theoretical. The question presented here is whether New York's attempt to close a railroad crossing over a private road is pre-empted by the federal statutory scheme governing our nation's railroads. We hold that it is not. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Kahn, J.).

FACTS

Plaintiff Island Park, LLC ("Island Park") owns and operates a 400 acre nursery outside Albany, New York.2 Railroad tracks owned by Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSXT") intersect Island Park's property. The tracks are part of the "Hudson Line," a heavily traveled, primarily passenger-based railroad line that runs between Albany and New York City.3 The Hudson Line consists of two sets of parallel railroad tracks that are raised and bordered by steep embankments on both sides. Island Park possesses an easement to use a private rail crossing, referred to by the parties and the district court as "Abele's Crossing," and accessed through private unpaved roads. No automated warning system is connected to the crossing. Island Park stores tractors and cultivation equipment on one side of the tracks and uses the rail crossing to reach the fields on the other.

By way of background, in August 1981, the prior owners of the Island Park property, John Abele, Harry Abele and Francis Schmidt (hence the name "Abele's Crossing") brought an action in New York State Supreme Court, Rensselaer County, seeking an order enjoining Conrail from interfering with their use of the crossing. The parties reached a settlement in 1988 that required Conrail to restore the crossing, to pay the Abeles a sum of money, and to "cease and desist from interfering with said crossing of the plaintiffs and their predecessors and successors in interest from now until all time." In June 1989, the state court reduced the stipulation to an order and directed Conrail to "restore the railroad crossing and maintain said crossing in the present and in the future at defendant's sole expense." Pursuant to that order, Conrail and/or Amtrak made improvements to the crossing, such as installing gates and warning signs, and paving the surface of the crossing. According to Island Park, the crossing has been used as a private farm crossing on a continuous basis from 1989 until the present.

559 F.3d 99

In February 2005, NYSDOT commenced an administrative proceeding pursuant to N.Y. Railroad Law § 97(3) to determine if the crossing "should be altered or closed and discontinued." Following a public hearing, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") recommended that the crossing be closed and discontinued for safety reasons. The ALJ noted that Island Park uses the crossing to transport heavy, slow-moving farm equipment and that high-speed passenger trains frequently pass through the crossing. The tracks are "super elevat[ed]" to accommodate the high-speed trains on the Hudson Line, thereby creating a "hump" for vehicles crossing the tracks. The ALJ found that the substantial grade of the approaches to the crossing, the "hump" in the crossing, and the limited sight distance due to track curvature presented very serious safety concerns because these conditions "adversely affect[ed] the time it takes to cross." In addition, although the ALJ recognized that the evidence clearly established that "the crossing serves as a convenient access point," it also noted that "reasonable alternatives," i.e., safer points of access to Island Park's property, existed. Thereafter, in March 2006, Defendant Dennison P. Cottrell, NYSDOT's Director of the Passenger and Freight Safety Division, signed a closure order and directed CSXT to remove the crossing surface and install barricades preventing the use of the crossing.

Shortly after receipt of the closure order, Island Park commenced this action in federal district court seeking a permanent injunction enjoining the Railroad Defendants from enforcing or executing NYSDOT's order.4 The complaint asserted the following claims: (1) the closure order was pre-empted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act ("ICCTA") and the Federal Railroad Safety Act ("FRSA"); (2) the State Defendants deprived Island Park of its property interest without due process of law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) the State Defendants' actions constituted a taking of its property interest without just compensation or due process in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (4) pursuant to the 1989 state court judgment, the Railroad Defendants were obligated to keep the crossing open. The district court issued a temporary restraining order and all the Defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint. Island Park cross-moved for summary judgment on its second and third causes of action.

The district court denied Island Park's motion for summary judgment, but sua sponte granted it summary judgment on its pre-emption claim. See Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 1:06-CV-310, 2007 WL 1851784 (N.D.N.Y. June 26, 2007). The court permanently enjoined (1) the State Defendants from employing N.Y. Railroad Law § 97(3) to order the closure of the crossing, and (2) the Railroad Defendants "from undertaking any actions to barricade [the crossing] pursuant to the order issued by State Defendants . . ." Id. at *15. As a result of granting summary judgment to Island Park on its pre-emption claim, the court dismissed its fourth claim seeking to enforce the 1989 state court judgment as moot. Id. at *14.5

559 F.3d 100

On appeal, both the Railroad and State Defendants argue that the district court erroneously determined that the closure order was pre-empted by federal law. The Railroad Defendants also challenge the propriety of the district court's sua sponte grant of summary judgment to Island Park without prior notice, which they argue denied them the opportunity to present evidence and legal argument in opposition to summary judgment. Island Park, in addition to defending the district court's determination, advances two alternate grounds on which this Court should affirm the district court judgment — i.e., that it was deprived of its property interest in the crossing without due process of law, and that the closure order constituted a taking of property without just compensation.6 Because we agree with the Defendants that neither ICCTA nor FRSA pre-empts the state closure order, the district court judgment granting Island Park summary judgment on its pre-emption claim must be reversed. We further conclude that the district court correctly rejected Island Park's due process and takings claims; thus, we decline to affirm the district court judgment on those alternative grounds. Lastly, we remand to the district court for further proceedings on Island Park's fourth claim (which sought enforcement of the 1989 state court judgment) because that claim is no longer moot in light of our reversal of the district court's judgment.

DISCUSSION

A party is entitled to summary judgment only if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "[A] determination regarding preemption is a conclusion of law, and we therefore review it de novo." Drake v. Lab. Corp. of Am. Holdings, 458 F.3d 48, 56 (2d Cir.2006).7 Although "[d]istrict courts have the discretion to grant summary judgment sua sponte, even without notice in certain circumstances," we have cautioned that "care should be taken by the district court to determine that the party against whom summary judgment is rendered has had a full and fair opportunity to meet the proposition that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be tried, and that the party for whom summary judgment is rendered is entitled thereto as a matter of law." Schwan-Stabilo Cosmetics GmbH & Co. v. Pacificlink Int'l Corp., 401 F.3d 28, 33 (2d Cir.2005) (citation, internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). In this case, while the district court may have been ill-advised in granting summary judgment sua sponte to Island Park on this difficult pre-emption question, it did not err in concluding that this case was suitable for resolution by summary judgment. The material facts are undisputed and the pre-emption issue is a question of law that

559 F.3d 101

has been fully briefed by the parties. Accordingly, a remand to the district court for a trial on this issue is not required. For the...

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90 practice notes
  • Grogg v. Csx Transp., Inc., Cause No. 1:07-CV-222.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • September 14, 2009
    ...to `prescribe regulations and issue orders for every area of railroad safety.' 49 U.S.C. § 20103(a)." Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp., 559 F.3d 96, 106 (2nd Cir.2009). It is well established that provisions of the FRSA may preclude certain claims brought by railroad employees. Waymire v. Pa......
  • All Am. Tel. Co. v. AT & T Corp., 07cv861
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 10, 2018
    ...party status in the FCC proceedings.4 A "determination regarding preemption is a conclusion of law." Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp., 559 F.3d 96, 101 (2d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted); see also N.Y. State Rest. Ass'n v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Health, 509 F.Supp.2d 351, 354-55 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (obser......
  • Gordon v. New England Cent. R.R., Case No. 2:17-cv-00154
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • October 10, 2019
    ...law to occupy the legislative field, or if there is an actual conflict between state and federal law." Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp., 559 F.3d 96, 101 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]he party asserting that federal law preempts state law bears the burden of establis......
  • People v. Burlington N. Santa FE R.R., No. A133559.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 16, 2012
    ...has exercised “broad regulatory authority” over railroads for more than a century. ( Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp. (2d Cir.2009) 559 F.3d 96, 102( Island Park ).) The Interstate Commerce Commission, created by the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, was abolished by the ICCTA in January 1996......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
91 cases
  • Grogg v. Csx Transp., Inc., Cause No. 1:07-CV-222.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • September 14, 2009
    ...to `prescribe regulations and issue orders for every area of railroad safety.' 49 U.S.C. § 20103(a)." Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp., 559 F.3d 96, 106 (2nd Cir.2009). It is well established that provisions of the FRSA may preclude certain claims brought by railroad employees. Waymire v. Pa......
  • All Am. Tel. Co. v. AT & T Corp., 07cv861
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 10, 2018
    ...party status in the FCC proceedings.4 A "determination regarding preemption is a conclusion of law." Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp., 559 F.3d 96, 101 (2d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted); see also N.Y. State Rest. Ass'n v. N.Y.C. Bd. of Health, 509 F.Supp.2d 351, 354-55 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (obser......
  • Gordon v. New England Cent. R.R., Case No. 2:17-cv-00154
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • October 10, 2019
    ...law to occupy the legislative field, or if there is an actual conflict between state and federal law." Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp., 559 F.3d 96, 101 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]he party asserting that federal law preempts state law bears the burden of establis......
  • People v. Burlington N. Santa FE R.R., No. A133559.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 16, 2012
    ...has exercised “broad regulatory authority” over railroads for more than a century. ( Island Park, LLC v. CSX Transp. (2d Cir.2009) 559 F.3d 96, 102( Island Park ).) The Interstate Commerce Commission, created by the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, was abolished by the ICCTA in January 1996......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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