Justice Alito's Maritime Law Jurisprudence, Part Two

Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Alito has a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He doesn't have many opinions relating to admiralty or maritime law from his time on the circuit court, but he does have a few. Court of Appeals Opinions Pennsylvania Tidewater Dock Co v. Director, OWCP, 202 F.3d 656 (3rd Cir. 2000)(original opinion (here)): this is a case regarding an employer's entitlement to compensation from a "special fund" for benefits paid relating to a claimant's pre-existing condition. The case turned on the appropriate standard of review for the Benefits Review Board. Finding that the Administrative Law Judge had ample support for his findings, the court (Judge Alito writing) reversed the Board's conclusion that it did not. United States v. $184,505.01 in the United States Currency, 72 F.3d 1160 (3rd Cir. 1995)(original opinion (here)): this is an asset forfeiture case arising from an in rem proceeding against cash. The issue in this case was if service by publication, which is explicitly allowed by rule, satisfied due process. The court (Judge Alito writing) found that due process required service and not mere reliance on publication. Exxon Shipping Co. v. Exxon Seamen's Union, 11 F.3d 1189 (3rd Cir. 1993): this is a case arising from an arbitration award that was vacated by the district court. The arbitrator ordered a maritime employer to reinstate a seaman who was found highly intoxicated while onboard an oil tanker. After reviewing the statutes relating to marine pollution and vessel operations, then-Judge Alito, affirmed the vacatur of the arbitration award reinstating the seaman basing the affirmation on public policy. Federal Labor Relations Authority v. U.S. Dept of Navy, 966 F.2d 747 (3rd Cir. 1992): this is a FOIA case that arose from a federal government workers' union attempt to obtain home addresses of federal employees. The majority ordered the disclosure. Judge Alito joined in a dissent, but wrote separately noting: "all federal employees — from Cabinet officers to GS1's — have a privacy interest of some weight in their home addresses and that there is no public interest cognizable under FOIA in the disclosure of these addresses." Grupo Portexa, S.A. v. All Am. Marine Slip, Div of Marine Office of Am. Corp., 954 F.2d 130 (3rd Cir. 1992): an insurance coverage case arising from a salvage operation. The policy in question provided for removal costs if said removal was "compulsory by law." The salvage operation was conducted in Mexican waters and a Mexican port official had issued an order to move the wreck. Judge Alito, writing for the court, found that the order made the removal "compulsory by law" and that the Act of State doctrine precluded any American interpretation of the Mexican official's conduct. Additionally, the district court had found the salvage operation to be extremely inefficient (read: costly). The court implied a reasonableness requirement for the removal costs that could be awarded on remand. Cruz v. Chesapeake Shipping, Inc., 932 F.2d 218 (3rd Cir. 1991): this is a case relating to the rights of seamen serving aboard vessels reflagged from a foreign country to the U.S. Seamen brought suit against their shipping companies after their Kuwaiti flagged ships were re-flagged to American during the Iran-Iraq war. Does the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (including the minimum wage) apply thereon? The majority found that it did not. Judge Alito dissented. Beginning by reviewing the statutory language and legislative history of the Fair Labor Standards Act (which supported the applicability of minimum wage on all U.S. flagged vessels), Judge Alito wrote that the Act should apply because of its broad mandate and that the seamen onboard the reflagged vessels WERE entitled to minimum wage.

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