Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Elwell v. Bade

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 28, 2019

DAN ELWELL, Acting Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, Plaintiff,
v.
AASIF BADE, et al, Respondents.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          DORIS L. PRYOR UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the Federal Aviation Administration's (“FAA”) Petition for Enforcement of Administrative Subpoenas (Dkt. 1). For the reasons set forth below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Petition be GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Since approximately 2008, the Respondents[1] have collectively operated AirXL, LLC (hereinafter “AirXL”), a private air carrier service that uses seven Cessna Citations jet aircrafts.[2] In 2013, the FAA received complaints about AirXL's operations and began investigating the Respondents for potential past and continuing violations of FAA regulations. Specifically, the FAA believed that the Respondents had failed to obtain proper authorization for the air-carrier service and thereby avoided mandatory safety requirements. [Dkt. 4 at 2.]

         On March 23, 2014, the FAA issued its first set of administrative subpoenas to various individuals and LLCs regarding AirXL's operations (the “2014 Subpoenas”). [Dkt. 12 at 2.] The Respondents jointly responded to these subpoenas and ultimately produced over 2, 000 pages of documents. [Dkt. 12 at 2-3.]

         On December 14, 2017, the FAA issued another set of administrative subpoenas to various individuals and LLCs it believed might have information about AirXL's operations (the “2017 Subpoenas”). [Dkt. 4 at 3.] Some recipients of the 2017 Subpoenas produced aircraft flight logs, flight summaries, aircraft lease agreements, pilot payrolls, and operating invoices in response. [Id.] The FAA also took the depositions of six individuals, but deposed none of the Respondents. [Id.]

         On August 9, 2018, the FAA served a third set of administrative subpoenas to the Respondents (the “2018 Subpoenas”). The 2018 Subpoenas “required production of all documents, from January 1, 2015 to the present, in Respondents' possession related to their respective agreements associated with their use, ownership, and/or leasehold interest in the Cessna Citations under investigation.” [Dkt. 4 at 5.] On August 31, 2018, the Respondents objected to the 2018 Subpoenas in their entirety and, to date, have not produced any documents in response.

         The FAA, by its Acting Commissioner Dan Elwell, filed a Petition for Enforcement of Administrative Subpoenas on February 27, 2019, requesting that this Court enforce the 2018 Subpoenas. [Dkt. 1.] On April 18, 2019, the Respondents filed a Motion to Quash Administrative Subpoenas [Dkt. 12], asserting in the opening paragraph that their motion serves as a response in opposition to the FAA's Petition. Because this Motion was filed on the deadline for a response and the arguments are in direct response to the FAA's Petition, the Court should treat the Respondents' Motion as a response brief.[3] The Petitioner filed a reply brief on April 25, 2019.

         The Respondents attempted to file a reply brief in support of their Motion to Quash Administrative Subpoenas on May 2, 2019, but because the Undersigned has deemed that the Motion to Quash is a response brief, the reply is more appropriately considered a Surreply to the FAA's Petition. Because the Respondents did not seek leave of court to file such a surreply, the Court will not consider it when ruling on the FAA's Petition. Upon request of the Respondents, the parties presented oral argument before the Undersigned on June 26, 2019.

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion to enforce a subpoena is generally viewed as a non-dispositive matter. E.E.O.C. v. Trinity Health Corp., 107 F.Supp.3d 934, 936 (N.D. Ind. 2015). Where there is no pending underlying action before a court, however, the order on whether to enforce the subpoena would be dispositive of the entire matter. Id; E.E.O.C. v. Dolgencorp., No. 07 C 6672 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 15, 2008) (citing N.L.R.B. v. G. Rabine & Sons, Inc., No. 00 C 5965, 2001 WL 1772333, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 10, 2001). Therefore, the Undersigned treats the present motion as dispositive and submits this Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         Subpoena enforcement proceedings are designed to be summary in nature. E.E.O.C. v. Aerotek, Inc., 815 F.3d 328, 333 (7th Cir. 2016); E.E.O.C. v. United Airlines, Inc., 287 F.3d 643, 649 (7th Cir. 2014). A district court must enforce an administrative subpoena if (a) the matter under investigation is within the authority of the issuing agency, (b) the information sought is reasonably relevant to that inquiry, and (c) the requests are not too indefinite. See United States v. Morton Salt Co., 338 U.S. 632, 652-53 (1950) (addressing a court's limited role in the enforcement of an administrative subpoena); Commodity Trend Serv., Inc. v. Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n, 233 F.3d 981, 986-87 (7th Cir. 2000) (discussing court's exercise of “only limited review” in deciding enforcement of agency subpoenas). Under this familiar formulation, known as the Morton Salt test, disclosure may be restricted, however, where it would impose an unreasonable or undue burden on the party from whom production is sought. Aerotek, 815 F.3d at 333. “[C]ourt assessments of whether disclosure would be burdensome and of what restrictions might be appropriate are decisions within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Dow Chem. Co. v. Allen, 672 F.2d 1262, 1267 (7th Cir. 1982).

         III. Analysis

         The FAA's 2018 Subpoenas request information as follows:[4]

From Respondents Bade, Gray, Evans, McClure, Roehm, Sterrett, Tuohy, and Evans, Sherman:
For the period January 1, 2015 to the present:
Any and all records, in your custody and control including but not limited to the following; emails, correspondence, notes, reports, logbooks, manuals, diaries, documents, and/or photographs, including all written, printed, typed, computerized, programmed or graphic documents of any kind or nature related in any manner to:
1. Pilot Services Agreement, or any such similar agreement, pertaining to your use of N170SD; N884B; N525LE; N80X; N469DE, N550HJ, N562PC, and/or NI7ED.
2. LLC Interest Purchase Agreement and/or LLC Interest Purchase Agreement and Amendment to Operating Agreement, or any such similar agreement, pertaining to your use of N170SD; N884B; ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.