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Air Brake Systems, Inc. v. Mineta

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
357 F.3d 632 (2004)


Facts

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was a federal agency reporting to Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta (defendant). An Air Brake Systems, Inc. (Air Brake) (plaintiff) customer asked NHTSA if an Air Brake braking system would comply with NHTSA Standard 121. In reply, NHTSA's Chief Counsel issued advisory letters that said: (1) legally, Standard 121 required wheel-slip controls and warning lights, and (2) the Air Brake system appeared to lack those features, meaning the system would not comply with Standard 121. By statute, only a formal NHTSA compliance review could determine if the Air Brake system actually lacked the required features. Without a formal compliance review, NHTSA posted the advisory letters on its website. Air Brake lost business and sued Mineta. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan decided that the advisory letters were not judicially reviewable final agency actions and dismissed the suit. Air Brake appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Sutton, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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