Law School Case Brief
Ctr. for Auto Safety & Pub. Citizen, Inc. v. Nat'l Highway Traffic Safety Admin - 371 U.S. App. D.C. 422, 452 F.3d 798 (2006)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Authorization Act of 1991, 49 U.S.C.S. §§ 30,101 et seq., allows automakers to initiate voluntary recalls when a motor vehicle or its equipment contains a safety-related defector does not comply with applicable safety standards. 49 U.S.C.S. § 30,118(c). Generally, vehicle owners who are afforded recall notification of a safety-related defect or noncompliance are entitled to a free remedy from the manufacturer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administers the Safety Act and monitors manufacturer-initiated recalls.
Appellant public citizen groups filed a suit that challenged the regulatory regime governing regional recalls established in appellee federal agency's 1998 letter to automakers. The groups argued that the 1998 policy guidelines constituted a de facto legislative rule that violated the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Authorization Act of 1991. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The citizen groups appealed.
Is the 1998 policy guidelines of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration subject to review?
The court noted that in order for the groups' claims to be reviewable, the action had to be a final agency action pursuant to 5 U.S.C.S. § 704. For agency action to be final and reviewable under the APA, it had to generally mark the consummation of the agency's decision-making process and either determine rights or obligations or result in legal consequences. The disputed 1998 policy guidelines did not establish any binding rules, and they were not finally determinative of the issue to which they were addressed. Therefore, the guidelines were not subject to review.
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