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Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Chicago Transit Authority

April 20, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar


Plaintiff Union Pacific Railroad Company ("Union Pacific" or "Plaintiff") has brought this declaratory action for preemption and injunction against Defendant Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA" or "Defendant") under 49 U.S.C. § 10101 et seq. Before this Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss (Docket No. 16). For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED.


Starting in 1959, Union Pacific (or its predecessor entity) leased a portion of an elevated right of way running east and west between Harlem Avenue and Laramie Avenue in the city of Chicago. Throughout that time CTA used the underlying section of track for its commuter rail service. On July 16, 2006, Defendant offered to purchase a "perpetual easement" in the right of way for $7,564,400.00. This offer was rejected. Defendant then initiated eminent domain proceedings in the Illinois Commerce Commission ("IlCC") to condemn the leased portion of the right of way.

On January 12, 2007, Plaintiff filed this motion seeking to enjoin the IlCC proceedings. The parties have agreed to forego their state level remedies pending resolution of the case before this Court.


On a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true. Fed. R. Civ. Plaintiff. 12(b)(6). The purpose of a 12(b)(6) motion is to decide the adequacy of the complaint, not to determine the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). A complaint should not be dismissed "unless it appears beyond all doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

A complaint that complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure cannot be dismissed because it fails to allege facts. The Rules require simply that the complaint state a claim; they do not require the complaint to plead facts that would establish the validity of that claim. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002). "All that need be specified are the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer." Id. (citing Beanstalk Group, Inc. v. AM General Corp., 283 F.3d 856, 863 (7th Cir. 2002)). The Seventh Circuit has held that stating a claim in a complaint in federal court requires only "a short statement, in plain (that is, non-legalistic) English, of the legal claim." Kirksey v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 1039, 1041 (7th Cir. 1999). Plaintiffs "don't have to file long complaints, don't have to plead facts, don't have to plead legal theories." Id.


In its motion to dismiss, Defendant claims that Federal preemption of the IlCC proceedings is unwarranted because: (1) ICCTA does not give STB jurisdiction over this matter; (2) the requested relief is improper under the anti-injunction act; (3) the Younger doctrine requires the state body to proceed; and (4) declaratory relief is more properly pursued through the IlCC. See generally Def.'s Dismiss Mem. Plaintiff predictably disagrees, claiming that the ICCTA preempts the state proceeding in its entirety, and that the STB has properly asserted its jurisdiction over similar cases.

It should be noted that this Court is not considering the appropriateness of condemnation of the land in question, but rather the more preliminary determination of who should decide the appropriateness of that action -- whether the matter is to be settled by Federal authority under ICCTA or allowed to proceed through the state's IllCC process.

a. ICCTA Preemption

In its current form, ICCTA grants the STB broad jurisdiction over both rail transportation and rail facilities. See generally 49 U.S.C. § 10501. "The Interstate Commerce Act is among the most pervasive and comprehensive of federal regulatory schemes." Chicago and N.W. Transp. Co. v. Kalo Brick & Tile Co., 450 U.S. 311, 318, 101 S.Ct. 1124, 1130 (1981). According to its explicit terms, the Act displaces any state or local effort at regulation or oversight regarding railway tracks:

The jurisdiction of the Board over...the construction, acquisition, operation, abandonment, or discontinuance of spur, industrial, team, switching, or side tracks, or facilities, even if the tracks are located, or intended to be located, entirely in one exclusive. Except as otherwise provided in this part, the remedies provided under this part with respect to regulation ...

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