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FMC v. S.C. State Ports Auth.

Supreme Court of the United States

February 25, 2002, Argued ; May 28, 2002, Decided

No. 01-46


 [**1867]  [***969]  [*747]    JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This case presents the question whether state sovereign immunity precludes petitioner Federal Maritime Commission  [**1868]  (FMC or Commission) from adjudicating a private party's complaint that a state-run port has violated the Shipping Act of 1984, 46 U.S.C. App. § 1701 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp V). We hold that  [***970]  state sovereign immunity bars such an adjudicative proceeding.

On five occasions, South Carolina Maritime Services, Inc. (Maritime Services), asked respondent South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) for permission to berth a cruise ship, the M/V Tropic Sea, at the SCSPA's port facilities in Charleston, South Carolina. Maritime [****9]  Services intended to offer cruises on the M/V Tropic Sea originating from the Port of Charleston. Some of these cruises would stop in the Bahamas while others would merely travel in international waters before returning to Charleston with no intervening ports of call. On all of these trips, passengers would be permitted to participate in gambling activities while on board.

 The SCSPA repeatedly denied Maritime Services' requests, contending that it had an established policy of denying berths in the Port of Charleston to vessels whose primary purpose was gambling. As a result, Maritime Services  [*748]  filed a complaint with the FMC, 1 contending that the SCSPA's refusal to provide berthing space to the M/V Tropic Sea violated the Shipping Act. Maritime Services alleged in its complaint that the SCSPA had implemented its antigambling policy in a discriminatory fashion by providing berthing space in Charleston to two Carnival Cruise Lines vessels even though Carnival offered gambling activities on these ships. Maritime Services therefore complained that the SCSPA had unduly and unreasonably preferred Carnival over Maritime Services in violation of 46 U.S.C. App. § 1709(d)(4) (1994 ed., Supp. V),  [****10]  2 and unreasonably refused to deal or negotiate with Maritime Services in violation of § 1709(b)(10). 3 App. 14-15. It further alleged that the SCSPA's unlawful actions had inflicted upon Maritime Services a "loss of profits, loss of earnings, loss of sales, and loss of business opportunities." Id., at 15.

To remedy its injuries, Maritime Services prayed that the FMC: (1) seek a temporary restraining order [****11]  and preliminary injunction in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina "enjoining [the SCSPA] from utilizing its discriminatory practice to refuse to provide berthing space and passenger services to Maritime Services;" 4 [****12]   [*749]  (2) direct the SCSPA to pay reparations  [***971]  to Maritime Services as well as interest and reasonable attorneys' fees; 5 (3) issue an order commanding,  [**1869]  among other things, the SCSPA to cease and desist from violating the Shipping Act; and (4) award Maritime Services "such other and further relief as is just and proper." Id., at 16.

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535 U.S. 743 *; 122 S. Ct. 1864 **; 152 L. Ed. 2d 962 ***; 2002 U.S. LEXIS 3794 ****; 70 U.S.L.W. 4464; 2002 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4530; 2002 Daily Journal DAR 5783; 2002 AMC 1372; 32 ELR 20702; 62 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1321; 15 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 303



 South Carolina State Ports Auth. v. FMC, 243 F.3d 165, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 3784 (4th Cir. 2001)

Disposition: Affirmed.


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Admiralty & Maritime Law, Shipping, Regulations & Statutes, Shipping Act, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Time Limitations, Administrative Law, Agency Adjudication, Presiding Officers, Duties & Powers, Constitutional Law, State Sovereign Immunity, Abrogation of Immunity, State & Territorial Governments, Claims By & Against, General Overview, Federal Government, Civil Procedure, Federal & State Interrelationships, State Immunity, Formal Adjudicatory Procedure, Hearings, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Subpoenas, Courts, Judges, Administrative Law Judges, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Judges, Judicial Immunity, Torts, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Judgments, Pretrial Judgments, Securities Law, Scope of Provisions, Definitions, Covered Securities, Pleadings, Complaints, Counterclaims, Parties, Intervention, Default & Default Judgments, Default Judgments, Methods of Discovery, Requests for Admissions, Interrogatories, Inspection & Production Requests, Misconduct During Discovery, Default Judgments, Entry of Default Judgments, Impartial Decisionmaker, Judicial Officers, The Judiciary, Congressional Limits, Judicial Review, Reviewability, Standing, Relief From Judgments, Business & Corporate Compliance, Transportation Law, Water Transportation, US Federal Maritime Commission, Evidence, Rule Application & Interpretation, Sovereign Immunity, Preservation for Review, Maritime Forfeitures & Penalties, Sovereign Immunity, Local & State Governments, Rates & Tariffs, Separation of Powers, Executive Controls, Remedies, Damages, Monetary Damages, Transportation Law, Interstate Commerce, Federal Powers, US Congress