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American Auto. Mfrs. Ass'n v. Cahill

Citation: 29 ELR 21425
No. No. 97-CV-444 (LEK/DNH), 53 F. Supp. 2d 174/(N.D.N.Y., 05/18/1999) motion for attorneys fees

The court holds that an automobile manufacturers association is entitled to attorneys fees in connection with an underlying action in which New York's zero emission vehicle sales requirement for model years 1998-2002 was held preempted under Clean Air Act (CAA) § 209. The court first holds that the association's constitutional claims raised in the underlying action do not support an award of attorneys fees. The constitutional claims, which were dismissed by the district court, were not addressed by the appellate court, and holding such claims as "decided" appears most consistent with existing precedent and policy. Therefore, because the association's constitutional claims were decided against it, an award of attorneys fees based on such claims is inappropriate. Moreover, even if the constitutional claims were considered to be "undecided," they are not reasonably related to the association's prevailing claims.

The court next holds that the association validly brought its causes of action seeking to enforce CAA §§ 209 and 177 as claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, the association is properly considered a prevailing party in a § 1983 action. Under the law of the case, the court is bound to the appellate court's determination that the §§ 209 and 177 claims were validly brought under § 1983. The court further holds that were it to decide the issue de novo, CAA §§ 209 and 177 create a right enforceable in a § 1983 action. Congress intended for §§ 209 and 177 to benefit automobile manufacturers, § 209's prohibition on the imposition of a third set of automobile emissions standards is not so vague and amorphous that its enforcement will strain judicial competence, and § 209's preemption of state regulation is mandatory. Moreover, Congress did not intend to foreclose the association from seeking a § 1983 remedy against New York for violating CAA § 209, and the CAA provides no remedy for the enforcement of the association's § 209 right. Last, the court holds that an award of attorneys fees is not manifestly unjust. No special circumstances were presented that would justify such a conclusion.

[Prior decisions in this litigation are published at 28 ELR 20092 and 21491.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Philip A. Lacovara
Mayer, Brown & Platt
1675 Broadway, New York NY 10019
(212) 506-2500

Counsel for Defendants
Eliot L. Spitzer
Attorney General's Office
State Capitol, Albany NY 12224
(518) 474-7330