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National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Caln Township

January 8, 2010

NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CALN TOWNSHIP, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief filed by Plaintiffs National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") and Daniel Karczeski ("Karczeski") (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). At Plaintiffs' request, the Court will construe the Motion as one for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted.

I. FACTS

Amtrak was established by the Rail Passenger Service Act ("RPSA"), 49 U.S.C. § 24101, in 1971. Karczeski is an Amtrak employee in the role of Deputy Division Engineer for the Mid-Atlantic Division. Defendant Caln Township (the "Township") is a township organized and existing under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, located at 253 Municipal Drive, Thorndale, Pennsylvania. The Township's Director of Code Enforcement, Andrew Reczek ("Reczek"), and Township Commissioners Jill Kelly Hammond, Jim Mayrides, Jim Kruse, Joshua Young, and William Chambers, are also named as Defendants in this action (collectively, "Defendants").

A portion of Amtrak's railway runs through Caln Township -- as part of the Keystone Route and Northeast Corridor. On August 13, 2008, the Township issued two citations to Karczeski because of Amtrak's alleged failure to comply with Township Ordinance 2005-11 (amending Ch. 120-2 of the Township Code),*fn1 a Township weed control ordinance requiring that all weed or plant growth be maintained at eight inches or less (the "Ordinance").*fn2 On August 27, 2008, the Township again cited Karczeski for a second alleged violation of the Ordinance on another portion of Amtrak's property. Notably, the properties at issue are grassy areas adjacent to the railroad roadbed near the Thorndale train station in the Township.*fn3

As a result of the citations, a Pennsylvania magistrate district judge issued summonses. Karczeski pled not guilty to the citations and posted collateral in the amount of $352.00. Subsequently, the magistrate judge scheduled a hearing on the matter for September 30, 2008.

On September 12, 2008, counsel for Amtrak sent a letter to the Township asserting that Amtrak was federally exempt from the Ordinance. The letter also referenced the citations the Township had issued against Amtrak two years prior, in 2006, and requested that the Township withdraw the current citations, as it had done in 2006.

On September 24, 2008, Amtrak's Deputy General Counsel and Solicitor General contacted the Township's Solicitor, requesting that the Township take necessary steps to have the citations against Karczeski withdrawn. However, before the citations were withdrawn, the magistrate judge held a hearing on the matter, as scheduled, on September 30, 2008, wherein Karczeski was not present. As a result, on October 1, 2008, the magistrate judge entered an Order Imposing Sentence of a fine of $12.32, and on October 2, 2008, issued a Notice of Impending Arrest to Karczeski, directing that if Karczeski did not either appear before the court or remit the $12.32 to the Township, a warrant would be issued for his arrest. A bench warrant was ultimately issued for Karczecki's arrest, and Karczecki received notice of it on November 7, 2008.

On November 10, 2008, Amtrak's counsel contacted the Township's counsel, demanding that the Township withdraw the citations and the bench warrant for Karczecki's arrest on the basis that federal law did not require Amtrak to comply with the Ordinance. On November 11, 2008, the Township's counsel responded to Amtrak's counsel, stating that the Township did not have the authority to withdraw the arrest warrant issued for Karczecki, but offered to "informally look into" the reason for the warrant. The Township's counsel later agreed, via email, to withdraw the citations and to ask the magistrate judge to rescind the arrest warrant.

According to the Township, it further informed Amtrak's counsel that it would be unable to proceed with withdrawal of the charges until November 14, 2008, due to the unavailability of the magistrate judge. On November 14, 2008, the Township withdrew the citations and asked the magistrate judge to withdraw the arrest warrant, to which he agreed. A Notice of Withdrawal of Charges was issued on November 14, 2008. Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in this Court on that same day, alleging that the Ordinance is preempted by several provisions of the RPSA, 49 U.S.C. § 24101, and 49 C.F.R. § 213.37.*fn4

In connection with their Complaint, on November 14, 2008, Plaintiffs also filed the instant Motion for declaratory and injunctive relief. On January 16, 2009, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint. On March 12, 2009, the Court denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Subsequently, on July 31, 2009, the Court signed a Scheduling Order setting discovery deadlines and mandating that each party submit supplemental briefs related to the pending Motion. The parties have submitted their respective briefs.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 states that summary judgment is proper "if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court asks "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether . . . one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit after applying the substantive law. Further, a dispute over a material fact must be 'genuine,' i.e., the evidence must be such 'that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party.'" Compton v. Nat'l League of Prof'l Baseball Clubs, 995 F. Supp. 554, 561 n.14 (E.D. Pa. 1998).

Summary judgment must be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has produced evidence in support of summary judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the allegations set forth in its pleadings and counter with evidence that presents "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see also Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am. Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1362-63 (3d Cir. 1992). "More than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" must be presented by the non-moving party in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Tziatzios ...


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