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Nationwide Freight Systems, Inc. v. Baudino

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 23, 2013



JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Nationwide Freight Systems, Inc. ("Nationwide"), Leader U.S. Messenger, Inc. ("Leader"), and Stott Contracting, LLC ("Stott") (collectively "Plaintiffs") are motor carriers that have been separately investigated and charged by the Illinois Commerce Commission ("ICC"). (Dkt. No. 41 ("Pls.' SMF") ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and allege that document requests made by ICC agents Thomas Baudino ("Baudino") and Craig Baner[1] ("Baner"), later upheld by ICC Chief Administrative Law Judge Latrice Kirkland-Montague[2] ("Kirkland-Montague") (collectively "Defendants"), are preempted by 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c). The court's jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims is provided by 28 U.S.C. § 1331. ( See 11/26/12 Order at 6.) Now before the court are Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 43) and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No 40). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted and Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is denied.


Plaintiffs are motor carriers, as defined by federal law. (Pls.' SMF ¶ 2); see also 49 U.S.C. § 13102(14).) It is undisputed that each plaintiff was "the subject of an investigation, hearing, and determination by the [ICC], " and that "[t]he pleadings and orders were essentially the same in each case." ( Id. ¶¶ 2, 8.) This common sequence of events is detailed below.

Initially, ICC Police Officers[3] issued each plaintiff a citation for "operat[ing] as an intrastate motor carrier of property without a license from the Commission, " in violation of 625 ILCS 5/18c-4104(1)(a). (Dkt. No. 45 ("Defs.' SMF") ¶¶ 4, 8, 12.) The ICC then began investigating each plaintiff's operations. (Pls.' SMF ¶ 9.) ICC Police Officers first requested that Plaintiffs produce certain records under 625 ILCS 5/18c-1703(2)(b), [4] followed by a formal demand for records from the ICC Chief of Police seeking production of various documents "concerning the operations of those motor carriers." (Pls.' SMF ¶ 10.) Specifically, the formal demand provided to Leader required Leader to "produce documents and records regarding your company's transportation operations within Illinois (for example, bills of lading, driver logs, invoices, pick-up tickets, etc.)" for the six-month time period preceding the initial citation. (Defs.' Ex. C at ICC:00362 ("Leader Formal Demand").) The formal demand provided to Stott and Nationwide only generally directed these motor carriers to "produce [their] books and records" for the relevant six-month time period. (Defs.' Ex. A at ICC:00026 ("Stott Formal Demand"); Defs.' Ex. B at ICC:00182 ("Nationwide Formal Demand").)

Plaintiffs objected to the ICC's requests for documents, partly on the grounds that the requests were preempted by 49 U.S.C. 14501(c). (Pls.' SMF ¶ 11; Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 7, 11, 15.) In response to Plaintiffs' objections, the ICC submitted letters to Stott and Nationwide "renew[ing]" and clarifying its previous requests for documents:

The Commission formally requests [Stott or Nationwide] to produce the following documents related to its intrastate, for-hire transportation operations within Illinois for the [specified] time period...:
a. Bills of lading;
b. Driver logs;
c. Invoices from any owner-operators leased on to [Stott or Nationwide]; and
d. Any other documents containing the origin and destination of cargo, the date(s) of the transportation, a description of the cargo transported, and the revenues generated by the transportation.

(Defs.' Ex. A at ICC:00030 ("Stott Clarification"); Defs.' Ex. B at ICC:00186 ("Nationwide Clarification").) When Plaintiffs persisted in objecting to the ICC's document requests, Plaintiffs were cited with violating 625 ILCS 5/18c-4104(1)(k), [5] because of their alleged "fail[ure] to provide Records on demand." (Defs.' Ex. A at ICC:00015 ("Stott 2d Citation"); Defs.' Ex. B at ICC:00175 ("Nationwide 2d Citation"); Defs.' Ex. C at ICC:00333 ("Leader 2d Citation").) In each case, the ALJ found the motor carrier guilty of the violations charged in the second citations, and ordered each plaintiff to pay a $500 civil penalty for failure to produce the requested records. (Defs.' Ex. A at ICC:00129 ("Stott ALJ Decision"); Defs.' Ex. B at ICC:00275 ("Nationwide ALJ Decision"); Defs.' Ex. C at ICC:00381 ("Leader ALJ Decision").) Plaintiffs' combined petition for rehearing was summarily denied by the ICC on March 21, 2012. (Pls.' SMF at ¶¶ 14-15; see also Defs.' Ex. A at ICC:00149 ("Tr. 3/21/12 ICC Bench Session").)

Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit two weeks later, on April 4, 2012, claiming that federal preemption barred the ICC from investigations of Plaintiffs that concerned "anything other than compliance with insurance requirements or demonstrated safety issues." (Compl. at 8 ("Request for Relief") at (b), (e).) Plaintiffs and Defendants have now both ...

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