FAA decisions are not always popular. But federal law provides a mechanism to appeal certain orders and decisions. Under 49 U.S.C. § 46110(a), any interested party can petition for judicial review of a final FAA order or decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, or the U.S. Court of Appeals in the circuit in which the party resides or that is the principal place of business for a company. The party must file the petition for review no later than 60 days following the final FAA order or decision, unless the party can demonstrate reasonable grounds for filing past the 60th day.
The FAA order must be final to be eligible for judicial review. There are three basic criteria that a FAA order must meet to be final:
· The order must evidence the completion of the FAA decision-making process.
· The order must determine certain rights or obligations or result in legal consequences.
· Judicial review would not interfere with or disrupt the FAA’s administrative or decision-making process.
Some examples of FAA decisions that are not final and eligible for judicial review include notices or letters that restate a previous interpretation of a policy or rule or a notice that the FAA is investigating a particular company. Rather, a final order must be a new interpretation of a regulation or a decision following an investigation by the FAA. If the FAA order is not final, the federal court has no authority to review it.
In some published cases, reviewing courts discuss the vagueness and lack of specificity in FAA orders, which has created confusion over whether they are final orders for the purposes of judicial review. The consensus from these cases is that when an interested party is in doubt about an FAA order’s finality, it is likely to timely petition for judicial review rather than miss a crucial deadline.
Aviation cases involving the appeal of FAA decisions can be complex, and no two aviation-related cases are the same. When these types of disputes arise, you need experienced legal representation and advice. Williams Commercial Law Group, L.L.P., is a law firm focusing on aviation law, business divorce, and contract disputes. Contact us at (602) 256-9400 and schedule a time to meet with us today.