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Supreme Court to rule in Amtrack regulatory dispute

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in three cases for next term. In Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will determine whether §207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) [text] "effects an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to a private entity." Section 207(a) of the PRIIA requires that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) [official website] and Amtrak [corporate website] "jointly ... develop" the metrics and standards for Amtrak's performance that will be used in part to determine whether the Surface Transportation Board (STB) [official website] will investigate a freight railroad for failing to provide the preference for Amtrak's passenger trains that is required by 49 USC § 24308(c) [text]. In the event that the FRA and Amtrak cannot agree on the metrics and standards within 180 days, Section 207(d) of the PRIIA provides for the STB to "appoint an arbitrator to assist the parties in resolving their disputes through binding arbitration." The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled [opinion] that §207 "constitutes an unlawful delegation of regulatory power to a private entity."

In Whitfield v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will decide whether 18 USC § 2113(e)'s [text] forced-accompaniment offense requires proof of more than a de minimis movement of the victim. A conviction under the federal bank robbery statute carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison but no minimum sentence. If the bank robber forces another person "to accompany him" during the robbery or while in flight, however, that additional offense carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld [opinion] defendant Larry Whitfield's 264-month sentence.

Finally, in Hana Financial, Inc. v. Hana Bank [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will determine whether the jury or the court determines whether use of an older trademark may be tacked to a newer one. To own a trademark, one must be the first to use it; the first to use a mark has "priority." The trademark "tacking" doctrine permits a party to "tack" the use of an older mark onto a new mark for purposes of determining priority, allowing one to make slight modifications to a mark over time without losing priority. Trademark tacking is available where the two marks are "legal equivalents." The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that this is a question for the jury.

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